Following a wave of contentious executive orders signed in Washington late last week calling for a strict immigration law at both the federal and local level, Madison Police Department Chief Michael Koval announced on Monday two policy changes to how officers will approach immigration enforcement.
The changes, including a new standard operating procedure and an updated code of conduct, say MPD will only probe immigration status in cases of serious crimes directly related to public safety, rather than for deportation purposes under Immigration and Customs Enforcement, a federal agency.
“It is my hope that these changes will further affirm our commitment to providing qualitative services to ALL of our residents while also providing some measure of comfort that MPD will not be engaging in/with ICE in matters that are only concentrated on deportation,” Koval said in a blog post announcing the policy changes.
Under the new standard operating procedure, MPD will only cooperate with ICE in immigration-related investigation or detainment when an individual is engaged in, or reasonably suspected of, terrorism or espionage, participating in a criminal street gang, arrested for any violent felony or is a previously deported felon. It follows that in such cases, officers should obtain approval from a commander or officer-in-charge before detaining an individual.
The procedure also says immigration status should not interfere with access to MPD services.
“MPD is committed to community policing,” the procedure states. “An individual’s immigration status is immaterial with respect to MPD’s mission statement, core values, and operational systems. Immigration status is only relevant when an individual has committed serious crimes directly related to public safety.”
The updated code of conduct says MPD won’t follow ICE requests unrelated to serious crime and public safety, such as “coordinated operations or raids” where the purpose is to arrest individuals who are suspected to be in violation of immigration laws.
Koval said confusion at the national level prompted changes that would provide the community “greater clarity and broader application” on MPD’s position on immigration enforcement.
“I am concerned that ‘process’ issues have been thrown into overdrive at levels far beyond the pale of what one police chief and one department can do,” Koval said. “Be that as it may, MPD is going to do its best to remain true to policing our city in a way that places people, rights and common decency above all else.”