SB 1070: Victims, Witnesses Can Be Questioned About Immigration Status Under Phoenix PD's Post-1070 Operations Order

Categories: SB 1070 Redux

He noted that in 2010, then Phoenix Police Chief Jack Harris opposed the passage of 1070. Indeed, Harris made a formal declaration in the U.S. Department of Justice's lawsuit against Arizona over the law.

"I believe SB 1070 will have a negative effect on our community policing efforts," Harris stated in the declaration. "I am very concerned that victims and witnesses will be afraid to call police for fear of deportation."

Harris also noted that, "The new law subverts the authority of management to direct its sworn resources where it deems appropriate because the law allows police officers complete discretion to enforce civil immigration violations."

Puente organizer Carlos Garcia expressed disappointment in the operations order change specifically because of Harris' outspoken opposition to the law. He stressed that the impact on the Latino community would be deleterious.

"The result is an unsafe community," Garcia said. "The result is the community doesn't trust the police. The result is handing people over to Sheriff Joe Arpaio [to be processed], and allowing him to do what he does."

Garcia said he did not know about the change in the operations order. And Puente's press release for the upcoming demonstration blasts the current policy as being made "without community input or media notoriety."

Thompson said he did not think the department issued a press release about the operations order revision when it occurred in 2010, but he insisted that since then the department had reached out to the Latino community about the changes.

Members of the Phoenix Police Department's Community Response Squad cited private meetings with some community leaders during 2011 and a public community forum held in July addressing the department's immigration policy.

Still, the post-1070 change in the operations order has not received the same high-profile attention that a 2008 change garnered. Prior to 2008, the Phoenix Police Department forbade its officers from inquiring into someone's immigration status, bringing charges from nativist groups that Phoenix was a "sanctuary city" for illegal aliens.

Facing the threat of a lawsuit by the right-wing anti-immigrant organization Judicial Watch, then Mayor Phil Gordon set up a blue-ribbon panel of former prosecutors to take input during a community gathering held mid-December 2007 and to make recommendations about the operations order.

The revised policy required all arrestees to be asked about their immigration status, but victims and witnesses were off-limits and a supervisor's approval was needed before contact with ICE was made.

Mark Spencer, the former head of the Phoenix police union PLEA (the Phoenix Law Enforcement Association), was famously accused of violating that operations order when he arrested a day-laborer outside a Phoenix Home Depot in 2009 and turned him over to ICE without booking the man for a crime.

An internal investigation found that Spencer did not "intentionally violate" department policy, but immigration activists and others accused him of setting out to push the boundaries of the existing operations order.

Those boundaries have expanded under Operations Order 4.48, though an officer's discretion is not limitless.

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