Thursday, August 23, 2007

Nogales' Say

This is my friend Francisco Roque “Rocky” Nogales. He helps me by proofreading this blogspot. He wanted to post a comment about a recent article. There is no way that I will allow him to be relegated to or be buried on the comment section. He is entitled to a blank page on my site to write whatever he wishes. So there is nothing wrong with this picture.

Your piece entitled “Immigrant Sanctuary’ is an excellent read, MGB. Thanks for your thoughts and observations.

I believe you have actually captured what most law enforcement officers feel about this issue. For the 23 years I spent in the business, there were many instances that I met individuals from that group who feared our presence and did not want to speak with us. Many of them, I learned, could not make the distinction that our badge of office had the word “Police” on it rather than “Patrol Agent,” and had never been exposed to the true meaning of the foundational principles of U.S policing that you’ve so aptly and succinctly touched upon in your article.

A few extreme examples I would like to mention out of the many (too numerous to count) that I remember or personally experienced:

I recall the cold blooded murder of Officer Kenneth Sean McWethy, on February 1, 1986, at the mouth of an alley just west of Pacific & Broadway. A critical witness, looking out a window, saw the offender hiding in bushes, and then sneaking up to Sean’s blindside and shooting him multiple times. The witness, an undocumented worker, did not come forward for three days. But the image of the violent act haunted him, and he apparently could not sleep or rest. He finally came forward with the critical information, and apologized for waiting out of fear of deportation.

Fast forward to 1996, when a street drug dealer was killed with a single shotgun blast to his back as he attempted to flee a rival dealer. An undocumented worker, who also did not come forward for three days, likewise witnessed this cold-blooded murder through a window. But the violent image also haunted him, and he could not sleep or rest. His wife finally convinced him that he should call the police. He came forward with the critical information, and positively identified the offender. He also apologized for waiting to report out of fear of deportation.

The year before, in 1995, an undocumented worker, was raped by an Albuquerque Police officer, one of the worst type of predators our profession has to deal with. The victim obviously had reasons to distrust any law enforcement official from that point forward, and had to be convinced that her assistance in the prosecution would not result in her deportation. She retained an attorney to represent her concerns about her immigration status. She even became angry with another attorney who filed a civil complaint for monetary damages on her behalf, and the complaint language spoke of mistreatment she had been exposed to by police officials during the investigation, which she denounced. Her intent never was to gain anything from this experience other than preventing the offender from hurting anyone else.

The cases above, as aforementioned, are the extreme. But as I read your “Immigrant Sanctuary”, they, for obvious reasons, came to mind. These people and others, like them, must be educated by our society that they should not fear the local government for doing the right thing. This is not only an immigration status issue. Every person, within our borders, should feel free and obligated to come forward and report crimes as witnesses or victims.

Whether police talk to citizens of this country or just someone from another country, they should constantly consider that the person may have a legitimate reason to distrust government. In many countries, police do not assist citizens as we do in this country. Consequently, there may be skepticism about their trustworthiness or professionalism.

I personally would consider, when I had contact with anyone who spoke very little or no English, how I would feel if I was touring Russia, Germany or Nigeria. What if I was approached by an armed official in a uniform who began speaking to me in a language I didn’t understand? This simple thought process allowed me to empathize with the person and consider my tone and actions with them, of course without compromise to my or the safety of others.

Yes, there have been a few cases where I contacted immigration authorities to report a particular person’s illegal status. It was always after the person was in handcuffs for a crime and displayed a particular disdain for the law. This was dependant upon the type of crime committed and whether the community might benefit from the persons deportation rather than any potential for success at prosecution. Officers should have the discretion, perhaps in concert with state prosecutors, and approval of their supervisors, as to whether a person is to be turned over to immigration authorities.

When I read the position that Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio in Arizona had taken when he initiated a policy that his deputies should charge smuggled immigrants with felony conspiracy charges, I cringed. What possible interpretations of that policy are his deputies and other law enforcement officials perceiving? Crossing the line from policing to immigration control activities results only in a deeper wedge between police and the citizenry they are sworn to serve and protect.

I certainly hope that the Albuquerque city council and APD’s administration maintain a strong policy on keeping immigration control matters out of the normal duties of law enforcement officers. But, they must not tie their hands with a policy that does not allow for some discretion by those officers to use common sense in a case-by-case basis, and allow them to be able to seek assistance when necessary, from federal law enforcement agencies.

Nogales retired from the Albuquerque Police Department with the rank of lieutenant. He had a distinguished 23-year career, serving in a variety of assignments, including being: a patrol officer, a field investigator, a civil litigation investigator, a sex crimes detective, and he served a one-year term as president of the Albuquerque Police Officers’ Association before being promoted to sergeant. He supervised a patrol squad and a field investigations squad before he moved to investigations, where he supervised sex crimes and homicide units. He was promoted to Lieutenant and was a shift supervisor in field services division before becoming the district attorney liaison and finished his service commanding the traffic division.

Upon retiring, he assisted as a special investigator for Governor Bill Richardson’s former crime counsel, Bob Schwartz, on a major case involving efforts at locating previous residents of a state hospital and training school. He now works in the private sector as an investigator for GEICO.


buggs said...

Nice perspective Rocky, you nailed it correctly. Just a thought, we must be careful with too much discretion as it has the potential for abuse in the wrong hands. Most officers are fair people and true professionals, but sometimes we see a bad apple crop up who may be bias in applying the law in an impartial way. I think that good supervision is essential when you have discretion at play.

All your points were well taken.

joe schmedlap said...

Good perspectives in some area but I have to disagree strongly with a lot of it. The analogy of being in a foreign country and being approached by the police only works Rocky if you sneak in there without a visa or passport. Sure, add that to the mix and I too would be scared but I WOULDN'T DO THAT. Your whole page makes sense and is heartfelt but it omits that one big factor. The other thing it omits is the terror angle which, I have to say as a guy who saw a lot of intel data, DOES exist. There is not a lot to be done about a neighbor who has no fence, is right across the field, and can walk over here any day and earn some greenbacks for his family, and I feel strongly for those familys that are being used as cover to sneak in enemies of the state, crooks and dope, it is not too strong to call them victims also. I personally have one set of grandparents who immigrated from Europe and one grandparent who came across from Mexico. Im not immune to the struggle but it is certainly time to do something more than has been done in the past. I can't help but feel that eventually things like the bankruptingof hospitals, the use of someone elses SSN, and so forth will take a toll. That all said it pains me to disagree with you and that coommment about McWethy really got me in the gut , you see he was out of my academy class and a friend of mine.