With no details or specific directives accompanying President Donald Trump’s executive orders, local law enforcement officials say it’s hard to gauge the exact impact.
Boise Police Chief Bill Bones said he’s worried that Trump’s orders would undermine the work his department has done for years to include refugees and other vulnerable populations in the city’s law enforcement.
“Some of our most vulnerable populations are afraid to come for forward to the police department. And many of those times, those are groups such as refugees, where they’ve had a negative relationship with the police ... in the country they come from,” Bones said Monday. “If they’re afraid to come to the police, other people will prey upon them. They will become victims.”
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The safety of the community is the bedrock focus of a police department, and maintaining trust with the community is essential in order to create that safe environment.
Boise police chief Bill Bones
Bones also worried that putting federal responsibilities on local law enforcement officers would turn them into political tools for whichever political party has the upper hand.
“I don’t believe that local policing should change in any direction based on the political decisions that are made at a federal level,” he said. “I think that local police need to focus on the safety of their citizens and the trust that they have between the police department and the community.”
Two days before Trump signed the protest-triggering executive order barring admission of refugees from seven Muslim-majority countries, he signed two immigration-related orders — concerning building a border wall and cutting money that goes to sanctuary cities — that mentioned calling on local and state law enforcement agencies “to perform the functions of immigration officers.”
“We’re not really aware of any concerns this would raise for our department,” Nampa Police Chief Joe Huff said through spokesman Sgt. Tim Riha.
As recently as the 1990s, local police routinely placed suspects in jail on immigration holds awaiting federal action, but only if they were arrested in connection with other suspected criminal activity, Riha said. Neither Riha nor Huff recalled that task as particularly onerous or time-consuming, but they noted a shift toward immigration enforcement could increase calls.
“We didn’t go door to door, nor will we, looking for immigration violations,” Riha said.
In Twin Falls County, Sheriff Tom Carter told the Times-News he is “still kind of reeling” from the order to enforce immigration, saying it could discourage people from reporting crime, including domestic violence, for fear of ending up detained by immigration.
Carter and Jerome County Sheriff Doug McFall said their biggest roadblock to enforcing immigration policy is a lack of resources and know-how.
“We’ve got our plates full,” McFall told the Times-News. “The last thing we’re going to do is put together teams of deputies going out looking for illegal immigrants. We don’t have the manpower or resources.”
NEW POLICE WORKLOAD
On Monday, Idaho State Rep. Greg Chaney, R-Caldwell, announced that he would introduce a bill that would require law enforcement officers to check for and comply with immigration holds when making arrests.
City of Boise spokesman Mike Journee said adding immigration checks to Boise police officers’ duties could dilute their efforts at community policing, a philosophy that emphasizes building relationships with all groups in order to fend off crime and respond to it more effectively.
“Our police department has a full plate,” Journee said. “And there is simply a resource challenge in being able to pursue the law enforcement needs of the federal government as well.”
We feel like the methods that would require us to fulfill (Trump’s orders and Chaney’s bill) would break those bonds, break the trust that’s at the heart of community policing.
Boise spokesman Mike Journee
Leo Morales, executive director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Idaho, said local and state agencies typically don’t want to enforce immigration because of the extra work it creates and the increased possibility of litigation.
“Their role is to be peace officers and protect all people, regardless of where they may come from,” Morales told the Times-News.
Canyon County Sheriff Kieran Donahue and Idaho Sheriffs’ Association Executive Director Vaughn Killeen said the hadn’t had enough time or information to determine the potential ramifications for Idaho.
Donahue noted that the sheriff’s office already notifies ICE when anyone here illegally is arrested for breaking a state law, so not much is likely to change.
Killeen said the sheriff’s association membership has not discussed the new presidential orders, and is not on the agenda for the association’s meeting in Boise next week.
“I don’t think it really pertains to us right now,” Killeen said. “We’re talking about a federal issue, not a state issue.”