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Tucson police chief: We don't do Border Patrol's job, they don't do ours
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Tucson police chief: We don't do Border Patrol's job, they don't do ours

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The Tucson Police Department commits its resources to crime reduction, quality of life and positive engagement with our community, regardless of immigration status. We recognize civil immigration enforcement must be left to federal authorities, while local resources should address the needs and expectations of our diverse neighborhoods. As your police chief, I’m proud to live and work in a border city that has worked hard to implement comprehensive immigration-related policies for its police that protect the civil rights of all, regardless of race, ethnicity or status.

TPD’s Immigration General Order lays out a thoughtful and legally defensible approach to immigration-related matters. The policy is clear: TPD officers will not make immigration status inquiries during consensual contacts with the public, at schools with children or during interactions with victims or witnesses. We have long recognized that baseless and blanketed immigration inquiries discourage cooperation with the police, hinder investigations and negatively impact community trust and confidence. Our training reinforces that TPD cannot be effective if Tucson’s residents fear the police.

TPD’s comprehensive immigration policy was developed with extensive input from community groups and careful guidance from our City Attorney’s Office. This policy not only prohibits racial profiling of any kind, but lays out clear criteria for the limited circumstances when contact with federal immigration authorities is made, which typically involves cases of drug and arms trafficking, human trafficking, transnational gangs, computer crimes, child exploitation and when such reporting is required by state law.

For these and many other reasons, I don’t understand the recent commentary on a “Sanctuary City” ballot initiative that was written by persons who sought no input from local law enforcement. Separating fact from fiction can be difficult, but is essential to avoid unintended consequences for our community.

The fact is, this “Sanctuary City” initiative would prohibit TPD from working effectively with any federal law enforcement agency, including the FBI, ATF, DEA and the U.S. Marshals Service, on any joint law enforcement effort, regardless of whether it has any connection with immigration laws. It would end our participation in multi-agency efforts like the Joint Terrorism Task Force and Counter Narcotics Alliance, and it would also mean we couldn’t work with ATF to match ballistic evidence to violent criminals or partner with the FBI to investigate and solve child abduction or murder cases.

I share the dismay and outrage many community members feel over the needless separation of families in the so-called interest of border security.

I recently testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee’s subcommittee on Homeland Security that federal resources would be better spent focusing on the real threats to the safety of our communities—such as improving staffing and infrastructure at our ports of entry, where over 80 percent of illegal drugs are funneled into our country.

As your chief, I’ll continually speak out against policies at a federal or state level that are harmful to families and run counter to the humane and constitutional treatment of any group.

Recently there has been concern expressed regarding a traffic stop made by Department of Public Safety (DPS) officers on Tucson’s south side. Here are the facts: DPS made the traffic stop and requested Border Patrol response. BP made the decision to take a family of three into custody. TPD had no involvement in the stop or detention. Nothing in the “Sanctuary City” initiative would have changed this sequence of events.

There will always be circumstances within our city limits where other law enforcement agencies request assistance of one kind or another. TPD officers will not do BP’s job, just as we do not expect BP to respond to calls for service or enforce non-immigration laws within our community.

However, our officers will respond to urgent requests for assistance, calls for emergency help or calls where it’s necessary for us to enforce state law. This may involve addressing incidents where persons are blocking a law enforcement vehicle, interfering with a lawful arrest or trespassing on private property. This is a basic expectation of police officers in every city across the country, and one we are duty bound to uphold.

The members of the Tucson Police Department are committed to making the best possible decisions and choosing the wisest courses of action when it comes to the complexities of policing our city. These decisions and actions will continue to be founded upon the principles of fair treatment for all and a caring approach to public service.

Chris Magnus is chief of the Tucson Police Department.

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