- Associated Press - Thursday, April 13, 2017

LOS ANGELES (AP) - Immigrant rights advocates want a California company that makes police manuals to eliminate guidance for officers who suspect someone entered the country illegally - including whether the person speaks good English.

The pre-packaged manuals from Lexipol provide “legally erroneous policy language” that could lead to illegal arrests and detentions, the American Civil Liberties Union of California, the National Day Laborer Organizing Network and other groups said in a letter Wednesday to the company.

The letter urged the Irvine company to eliminate those policies, which are in manuals used by at least 11 California communities, the Los Angeles Times reported (https://lat.ms/2oAuufZ).

They include suburban Culver City, whose City Council last month declared it a “sanctuary city” and barred police from detaining people for immigration violations.

“The only time immigration would come into play is if they came to our jail and they were booked,” Culver City police Lt. Troy Dunlap, who heads the department’s community relations bureau, told the Times. “Specifically stopping someone and asking about immigration status is not our practice.”

Police officials in Blythe, Brisbane, Fremont, Rialto and Walnut Creek also told the Times that they do not actively engage in immigration enforcement.

Other California cities using Lexipol manuals include Azusa, Fontana, Irwindale, Laguna Beach and Murrieta.

One Lexipol police manual policy cites “a lack of English proficiency” as one of several factors officers can use in deciding whether to detain someone on suspicion of entering the country illegally, which is a misdemeanor violation of federal law.

The 2013 U.S. Census found that 19 percent of California’s population had limited English proficiency, the letter to Lexipol said.

“By suggesting that officers may systematically consider characteristics widely shared by Californians to arrive at reasonable suspicion of a crime, the policy encourages profiling and illegal detentions, and runs afoul of the Fourth Amendment,” the letter read.

Lexipol’s policies emphasize that lack of English proficiency shouldn’t be the only reason for determining if there’s enough evidence to make an arrest and that is “a pretty loud pronouncement of caution,” Ken Wallentine, a senior legal adviser for the company, told the Times.

Another factor cited is possession of immigration papers that indicate the person isn’t in the country legally.

The critical letter said police manual policies also encourage officers to detain people for federal crimes without reasonable suspicion and to make arrests for misdemeanors committed outside their presence and without probable cause.

About 3,000 police agencies nationwide have purchased some form of policy from Lexipol, Wallentine said.

Lexipol’s website says it offers policy manuals for public safety organizations that are customized by state. Clients can add, delete and ignore policies.

Local police chiefs should take local circumstances into account when turning policies into practice, Wallentine said.

Fremont police said they have removed the section of the policy regarding English-speaking proficiency, the Times said.

California is home to an estimated 2.3 million immigrants who do not have legal authorization. The state has set itself in opposition to an immigration crackdown promised by President Donald Trump and his administration.

Earlier this month, the state Senate passed a bill that would bar police and sheriffs from arresting or detaining people just for immigration violations unless a judge issues a warrant.

Some police agencies say they are concerned that recent activities, such as federal immigration officials arresting people at courthouses, will chill the relationship between law enforcement and immigrants, who may fear deportation when they report a crime or testify in a criminal case.

“Obviously we cannot do our jobs to the fullest if we don’t have the cooperation of witnesses or victims,” Rialto Police Chief Randy De Anda told the Times.

Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC.

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