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May 26, 2010

Some police chiefs expressing concern about crime impact of Arizona's new immigration law

This new Washington Post piece, which is headlined "Arizona immigration law will boost crime in U.S. cities, police chiefs say," provides a new criminal justice spin to the robust political and social debate following Arizona's recent adoption of new rules for dealing with illegal immigration. Here are excerpts from the Post piece:

Arizona's new crackdown on illegal immigration will increase crime in U.S. cities, not reduce it, by driving a wedge between police and immigrant communities, police chiefs from several of the state's and the nation's largest cities said Tuesday.

The new Arizona law will intimidate crime victims and witnesses who are illegal immigrants and divert police from investigating more serious crimes, chiefs from Los Angeles, Houston and Philadelphia said. They will join their counterparts from Montgomery County and a half-dozen other U.S. cities in meeting Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. on Wednesday morning to discuss the measure.

"This is not a law that increases public safety. This is a bill that makes it much harder for us to do our jobs," Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck said. "Crime will go up if this becomes law in Arizona or in any other state."

The delegation, organized by the Police Executive Research Forum, an independent think tank in Washington, comes as 15 states are considering their own versions of the Arizona law. That statute defines illegal immigration as criminal trespassing and requires police to request documents of anyone they stop and have a "reasonable suspicion" is in the country illegally.

Several recent public opinion polls indicate that as many as 70 percent of Americans surveyed support such a police requirement....

Although the ranks of chiefs appealing to Holder included Jack Harris of Phoenix, Roberto Villaseñor of Tucson and John W. Harris of Sahuarita, Ariz., president of the Arizona Association of Chiefs of Police, law enforcement opinion in the state is deeply split.

One of the new law's most prominent backers is Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio. His suburban Phoenix county has caught 120,000 illegal immigrants under a separate federal program that deputizes state and local law enforcement agents to catch illegal immigrants under limited circumstances, mostly after they have been booked into local jails.

Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu, head of the Arizona Sheriff's Association, is another backer. Babeu called the police chiefs' argument "flawed from the beginning." Cooperation from illegal immigrants, particularly those coming from Mexico, is already low, he said, because they are in the United States illegally and because of law enforcement corruption in their native countries....

Unlike most police chiefs, almost all sheriffs are elected officials. However, only about 60 of the nation's 3,000-plus elected sheriffs have chosen to participate in the federal program championed by Arpaio. Meanwhile, the nation's leading police chiefs have voiced caution about such initiatives.

In 2006, the Major Cities Chiefs Association -- which represents 56 U.S. cities -- unanimously warned that putting "local police in the crosshairs" of the national immigration debate would undo the success of community policing efforts in recent decades, said San Jose Police Chief Robert L. "Rob" Davis, association president and part of the group meeting Holder.

Requiring the Los Angeles Police Department to prioritize the arrest of 400,000 illegal immigrants among the city's 4.1 million residents would "cripple us and make it impossible for us to do our jobs," Beck said.

Montgomery County Police Chief J. Thomas Manger said directing officers to spend hours investigating the immigration status of every person stopped with a suspect identification card would mean less time to catch violent criminals. "We want to focus resources on people who are committing crimes in our communities," Manger said. "If you got somebody who is gangbanging and committing armed robberies, we'll work with [federal immigration authorities] all day long to find that individual."

May 26, 2010 at 10:17 AM | Permalink

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Comments

The fact that Joe Arpaio is on one side of an issue hardly indicates their is a disagreement among reasonable people on that issue.

Posted by: Anon | May 26, 2010 12:05:48 PM

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