Stung by a public outcry, Fairfax County Police Chief Edwin C. Roessler Jr. announced Wednesday that he had canceled the suspension and restored to duty an officer who had turned an illegal immigrant over to ICE.
Chief Roessler said an investigation is still ongoing but he ended the officer’s suspension after a “procedural policy recommendation” as of Friday.
“We have one of the best police forces in the U.S. and I have confidence that our officer will represent us well throughout his career,” the chief said in a statement.
A day before he had announced the suspension and publicly shamed the officer, accusing him of breaking department policy by checking for warrants on a person he encountered at a traffic stop who lacked a license, then detaining the man when the county’s system showed he was wanted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Chief Roessler said the officer “deprived a person of their freedom, which is unacceptable.”
He also said his department’s reputation had been harmed, and the punishment was a way to restore credibility with the community.
Immigrant-rights activists had cheered the chief, saying he was showing solidarity with their communities by taking the bold step of suspending an officer for violating a sanctuary policy.
But offers of assistance and support for the officer poured in as well, and Chief Roessler was harshly criticized for attempting to make an example out of the officer.
Chief Roessler said Fairfax County policy is to not check for administrative warrants of people it encounters but is not arresting. ICE generally uses administrative warrants, rather than judicial warrants, for its enforcement of the law against illegal immigrants.
The officer did check for administrative warrants and when one came back in the county system the officer called an ICE deportation officer who arrived to pick up the illegal immigrant, who was a fugitive after having failed to show for a deportation court case.