Arizona’s new SB 1070 law has surely generated more excitement in the past few months in the media than it did during the Pima County Sheriff’s Department training session on Wednesday.
Rather than chills and thrills, we were instead treated to a two-hour video, courtesy of the AzPOST Digital Training Series, hosted by a blond woman who concluded by reminding law enforcement members to “always wear your safety vests.”
The “we” in this case were about a dozen sheriff deputies – “a small group this time” – and a handful of media types who accepted the invitation to attend the afternoon session.
Perhaps the media presence explained the “small group” of deputies this time around.
Media may have outnumbered deputies, complete with folks from a TV station from as far away as Germany.
Having German TV on hand proves how far this law is reaching, as well as a major point brought up in the video:
“The scrutiny (Arizona law enforcement) will be placed under over the next few months will be unlike any you’ve ever seen.”
Deputies were warned they would likely be audio-taped, videotaped, provoked and baited during the early weeks of the law, which goes into effect July 29.
While the world is swirling over SB 1070, which already has a federal lawsuit lodged against it, the deputies took the new measure more as a matter of course, just another new law. They get trained on new laws all the time.
“All this is blown out of proportion,” said Deputy Scott Woodworth of the controversy and brouhaha surrounding the measure. He was kind enough to share a word following the video.
Deputy Trevor Tuminello, who was also willing to chat, added, “I think people are just afraid we’re going to go out and say, ‘Hey you! Hey you! Are you here illegally?’”
That’s not what the law says to do. The law doesn’t even begin to apply unless a person is stopped or detained for another reason, the video reminded us.
Even if a person who appears suspicious makes “consensual contact” with an officer, the officer cannot ask about immigration status. Nor can a deputy ask immigration status of a victim or witness, only a person who “committed a crime, is in the midst of committing a crime or is about to commit a crime.”
And law enforcement officers can only inquire about immigration status if they have “reasonable suspicion.” Reasonable suspicion does not include racial profiling, a fact bludgeoned into the brain by one of the video’s mantras:
No racial profiling. No racial profiling. Racial profiling is a violation of civil rights.
“Hispanic appearance is not enough for reasonable suspicion,” said the video. “Imagine the suspect was white, black or any other color – would you still have the reasonable suspicion?” If not, you are engaging in racial profiling.
“Race and ethnicity is not a crime.”
Reasonable suspicion, thus, relies instead on the “totality of the circumstances.” None of the factors is a red flag on its own, but several can raise the flag when taken as a whole.
Singular factors that can work together “in totality” to form reasonable suspicion that someone is in the country unlawfully:
No ID, especially in situations, like driving, where ID is needed
A foreign ID or foreign registered vehicle
A heavy vehicle packed with people trying to hide
Not being able to give a home address or answer how long they’ve lived there
An evasive manner, nervousness, no eye contact
Being around other illegal aliens or in location illegal aliens are known to frequent (i.e. places they hang around and wait for work)
Pretending not to know all the other illegal aliens around them or in the vehicle with them
Looking out of place, lost or uncomfortable
Not being able to explain where or how they got their Visa
Dress – if wearing layers, long sleeves or other clothes not consistent with climate or having bags of clothing and other articles that appears they have been carrying
And as wacky as it sounds, the video also noted that some people will actually come out and readily admit to law enforcement they are in the country illegally.
That one also works as a factor in reasonable suspicion.
Not being proficient in English – or even able to speak it at all – may work as a small factor, as long as deputies remember many legal citizens are not proficient in the language.
Deputies were also warned to fully document the reasons behind their reasonable suspicion in detailed reports. Detailed and solid enough to hold up in a court of law.
If reasonable suspicion exists, officers are to call ICE or Border Patrol to check on immigration status and, if the person is here unlawfully, to take the illegal entrants away. Homeland Security also has a law enforcement helpline.
Although law enforcement officers are obligated to ask about immigration status, this obligation only holds “when practicable.”
This means they can opt not to ask if it will impede their investigation in any way, such as messing up a major bust on a drug or human smuggling ring, or if other issues take priority.
“If we get a call where Wal-Mart has a shoplifter and only five deputies are available,” said Tuminello, “and then we get a call of someone breaking into a house, we’re going to go for the more critical situation. This is the way this law will work out, too.”
In other words, deputies will not be ignoring mayhem, bloodshed and murder because they are too busy asking someone about their immigration status.
The video also went on and on about the types of identification non-immigrants who are in the country legally may carry – as well as the fact that a green card had not been green for about 70 years until recently revised.
The loads of information may have been overwhelming for a civilian, yet the deputies appeared to take it in stride. They are used to all the legalese and nuances of many laws. They are sworn to uphold them.
As the video also mentioned, we need to give them the credit they deserve, especially when it comes to sound practices with things like SB 1070.
“I trust my officers,” said the bill’s sponsor, Arizona State Sen. Russell Pearce during the video’s long-awaited conclusion. “In this bill I have given them discretion.”
Perhaps we all need to trust they will do the right thing. Racial profiling is not only unethical, but it can ruin a career.
The best vote of confidence for our local law enforcement, however, may have come during the media Q and A. I got a chance to ask the room full of deputies to respond with a show of hands to two questions: how many absolutely hated the new law, found it a pain in the butt, and then how many absolutely loved it.
All were smart enough not to raise their hands in response to either inquiry.
ARS 11-1051 is where you’ll find SB 1070 (and HB 2162).
ARS 13-2928 and ARS 13-2929 also contain new info. The first deals with hiring illegal aliens off the street or stopping to pick them up and take them to a workplace. The second pertains to transporting, concealing or inviting aliens to come to Arizona.
In addition to the friendly blond host, the video featured a handful of speakers from the AzPOST Training Board. They included Attorney Beverly Ginn from Edwards and Ginn; Hipolito Acosta, United States Customs (Ret.); Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu; Arizona Police Association Executive Director and retired Phoenix police officer Brian Livingston. Tucson Police Chief Roberto Villasenor was also on the video, making it perfectly clear SB 1070 was not much favored but making it equally clear his department would enforce it as prescribed.
What do you think?
Do you have any concerns about how SB 1070 will be enforced?
Do you have faith Arizona peace officers will follow the law to the letter?