Leaders with the Prince George’s County Police Department in Maryland are clarifying when it is and isn’t appropriate for officers to work with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement department to detain immigrants wanted for deportation. It comes as the department admits there have been times when officers have helped ICE detain immigrants wanted for deportation as part of civil deportation orders.
In a video that outlines the policies, Police Chief Hank Stawinski and FOP chair John “Zeek” Teletchea stand side by side explaining the actions officers are supposed to take when someone is detained on a warrant issued by ICE. Stawinski said confusion in the federal NCIC database led some officers to believe that the word warrant implied ICE had put a criminal detainer on someone police later encountered.
“We are now required to look at the underlying basis of any warrant or process that appears in NCIC,” said Stawinski in the video, which will be shown to all officers at roll call this week.
“You shall not rely solely on the word warrant or the origin of that warrant in making that determination. You must ask yourself is this a warrant for a crime that our department would write a report, initiate an investigation or make an arrest for? Warrants for deportation are civil in nature, not criminal.”
If there’s still any confusion, Stawinski said officers are supposed to reach out to supervisors and dispatchers to better determine what the warrant is actually for, and may detain anyone for what’s considered “a reasonable amount of time” in order to make the proper determination. Teletchea said reasonable is defined as a period of time that “shall not exceed 60 minutes.”
Stawinski said the county will cooperate with ICE when “the primary focus of a federal investigation is not immigration violations.
“These include, but are not limited to, customs violations, money laundering, narcotics investigations, gang crimes, human trafficking, terrorist activities, or the execution of a criminal warrant or a court order issued by a federal judge or magistrate,” the chief said.
“Bottom line, just as we do not serve civil papers for the courts in the state of Maryland, Prince George’s County police officers will not serve civil papers on behalf of the federal government,” added Teletecha. “Individuals are not required to prove their citizenship or immigration status.”
A copy of the department’s policy can be found on their website.