ELPD Enacts New Policy on Immigrants and Impartial Policing

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Monday, October 23, 2017, 7:44 am
Chris Root

On Friday, October 20, East Lansing Police Chief Larry Sparkes signed a new Policy and Procedure document on policing immigrants in the community and more broadly on fair and impartial policing. This follows consultation with community members over many months and reflects an approach ELPD has already been working to enact.

The new policy states that immigrants are to be treated equally, regardless of their immigration status: “[ELPD] employees should not question, detain, or arrest any individual based solely on their immigration status; this includes the routine or unwarranted questioning of an individual in order to determine their legality of being in the United States.”

Further, according to the policy, ELPD officers are not to comply with federal immigration officials—either to detain an individual or to keep them in detention so that a federal official can come to detain them—unless the ELPD receives a specific warrant signed by a judge:

“A judicial warrant shall be required prior to detaining an individual or in any manner prolonging the detention of an individual at the request of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) or Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) or prior to arresting, detaining, or transporting an individual at the formal or informal request of ICE or CBP.”

East Lansing’s Police Chief is responsible for establishing policies and procedures for the Department. The City Council is not required to review or adopt these policies, but in this case, both the City Manager and Council members were shown a draft and did not raise any objections.

The impetus for creating this policy came from at least two sources. First, on January 31, the City Council unanimously adopted a resolution reaffirming the city’s “longstanding policy of refusal to participate with federal authorities in the widespread and unjust violation of the rights of individuals based on religion, national origin, immigrant or refugee status.”

This resolution was a response to President Trump’s Executive Orders expanding the latitude of federal authorities to deport undocumented immigrants and potentially halting funding to cities that refuse to cooperate with federal immigration officials.

Second, a group of East Lansing and nearby residents asked the East Lansing Police Chief to create a written policy. The impetus for this came after approximately twenty East Lansing residents participated in locally-hosted viewings of the March 11, 2017, launch of the ACLU “People Power” Freedom Cities campaign, where they were encouraged to meet with local law enforcement agencies to urge them to adopt nine model rules developed by the ACLU.

A group of six residents met with then-Police Chief Jeff Murphy in April to discuss the ACLU principles and asked the ELPD to develop a written policy on immigration enforcement. This group combined forces with the ACLU Lansing Area’s Racial Justice Task Force for two subsequent meetings, in July and September, with current Chief Larry Sparkes and Captain Steve Gonzalez. (Other groups of people working with ACLU People Power have met with senior law enforcement officials in Lansing, Meridian Township, and Ingham County.)

At the meeting with community members on September 13, Sparkes said he was pleased to report that the policy regarding cooperation with ICE was already being implemented, even though it had not yet been made official.

According to Sparkes, the previous day, an ELPD patrol officer had arrested an individual on a misdemeanor violation who was booked into the East Lansing jail and arraigned by a 54B District Court judge on the charge that same day. The ELPD learned from running his name in the LEIN / NCIC system (which is standard procedure for such an arrest) that ICE had placed an immigration detainer on the subject.

An ICE “detainer” is a form that states that there is probable cause that the individual is “a removal alien” and requests that the person be held in custody for an additional 48 hours “beyond the time when he/she would otherwise have been released … to allow DHS [Department of Homeland Security] to assume custody.”

In the September case, the patrol officer checked with Deputy Chief Gonzalez about how to respond to the ICE detainer, and, after the individual was arraigned, he was released in accordance with the bond set forth by the judge. ICE was notified of his release, but the individual’s release was not delayed.

Putting ELPD policy into writing provides the foundation for training of police officers. Additionally, a complaint against an ELPD officer can be considered a “policy violation” if the officer has failed to adhere to a written policy and procedure or other rule or regulation. A written policy can also be used to communicate to affected members of the community what practices they should expect from the police.

The ELPD decided to use the occasion of formalizing policy on immigration to develop written policy as well on “fair and impartial policing.” This part of the new policy prohibits actions by police officers that are based on someone’s “race, ethnicity, national origin, immigration/citizenship status, gender, sexual orientation, religion, economic status, age, cultural group, or any other identifiable trait.”

Officers are instead to act “based on the standard of reasonable suspicion or probable cause” and “must be able to articulate specific facts, circumstances and conclusions” about an individual or group of suspects.

“Fair and impartial policing” is a widely-used concept now employed by police departments across the country. Gonzalez says the ELPD consulted policies in Lansing, Port Huron, Battle Creek, Minnesota, and a group in Vermont when crafting the ELPD policy.

Derrell Slaughter, Vice President of Lansing Area ACLU and a member of the Michigan ACLU Board of Directors, participated in the series of meetings with ELPD leaders. He told the City Council at its October 17 meeting, “It has been a really great collaborative process. We feel we’ve gotten to the place where this policy is a really good one.”


Disclosure: The author participated in the three meetings with ELPD discussed in this article.

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