PHOENIX - Police officers were warned Thursday that they probably will be accused of racial profiling when they enforce the state's new immigration law, no matter what they do.
The caution was issued by Tucson Police Chief Roberto Villaseñor in a training video released by the Arizona Police Officers Standards and Training Board. It spells out what officers should look for to determine if there is "reasonable suspicion" to believe someone they've stopped for other reasons is in this country illegally. SB 1070 is set to take effect July 29.
Villaseñor, who has been critical of the law, said all his officers will get the message on how to properly enforce the law, but at a cost, because he will have to pay them overtime to watch the 90-minute video and take part in a two- to three-hour discussion and Q&A session.
And Beverly Ginn, an attorney who explains the law, stresses in the video that race, national origin or ethnicity, by law, cannot be used as factors in determining who is legal.
"We will be ready. We will be enforcing this law," Villaseñor said in announcing a series of SB 1070 training sessions. "Once this law is in effect, it will be our obligation to enforce it."
But he cautioned: "Without a doubt, we are going to be accused of racial profiling, no matter what we do on this. The best thing we can do is document thoroughly where we develop our reasonable suspicion or probable cause."
The video warns officers that they will be under very close scrutiny.
"On one side are people who are anxious to show that Arizona officers will racially profile Hispanic people under this new law," warned Lyle Mann, the state board's executive director. "Officers should expect to have field tests set up by activists who want to catch you in conduct they believe will help their causes."
But Mann also noted the law allows any legal resident of the state to sue over any policy that restricts or limits the ability of police to enforce federal immigration laws. He said that while it is doubtful a decision by an individual officer would constitute a policy, that would open the door to a suit, and "much is uncertain at this point."
Villaseñor said the Tucson Police Department command staff will be trained Tuesday, and officers will be required to attend one of 17 sessions scheduled between next Friday and July 29. He said TPD will use resources it hadn't budgeted for to pay for the overtime.
The Pima County Sheriff's Department also plans training sessions for its officers, though there are no plans for additional training beyond the video, Capt. Chris Radtke said. Most of what SB 1070 mandates are things his department already does, he said, so the video will serve as a refresher.
"This is not something new to us," he said, noting that the department arrests more illegal immigrants than any other law enforcement agency in Southern Arizona. "We encounter this every day."
Despite efforts to alleviate concerns about racial profiling, critics remain vocal. Jon O'Neill, of the Arizona chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, pointed out the training video is voluntary.
"There is no guarantee that any officer who would be enforcing SB 1070 will see it," he said. O'Neill said his organization won't comment beyond that, because what's in the video is likely to become part of the legal challenge to the law that the ACLU already has filed.
A hearing on that challenge is set for July 22.
In the video, Ginn warns: "The reality is that the ethnic mix of our community is such that race tells you nothing about whether or not a person is unlawfully in the United States," adding that the same is true of ethnicity.
Ginn said the best course for officers to follow is to ask for identification in the circumstances in which they would normally make such a request. She said that if individuals have one of the acceptable forms of ID, including an Arizona driver's license, a tribal ID card or another document that requires proof of legal presence in the country to obtain, "that's the end of your inquiry."
If someone doesn't have acceptable identification, Ginn said, officers can consider factors such as fleeing, engaging in evasive maneuvers, an inability to provide a home address, or having a foreign vehicle registration.
Location also is a factor, she said, with police being allowed to consider whether the person is in an area where illegal immigrants regularly gather and look for work. And she said how a person is dressed or an inability to speak English can be among the factors considered.
Although she didn't elaborate, Hippolito Acosta, a former federal immigration officer who is now a consultant, said clothing inconsistent with weather conditions might indicate a recent arrival in the area. And while not speaking English, by itself, is not enough, it can contribute to other factors.
No matter how closely officers follow the guidelines, Villaseñor believes they're going to be accused of profiling.
"I think the public's perception and the public's interpretation of racial profiling are going to increase," Villaseñor said. "I am absolutely certain there are going to be accusations of racial profiling, no matter what we do."
And because the law requires verification of legal status only when "reasonably practicable," Villaseñor said he is telling his officers to use their judgment to decide if there is something more important they should be doing.
Contact reporter Brian J. Pedersen at firstname.lastname@example.org or 573-4242.