Police chief tries to calm worries over gang prevention

July 15, 2011 6:48:33 PM PDT
A number of immigrant groups say they might stop helping police fight crime for fear of deportation after the police chief brought in federal immigration agents to help the city combat gang violence.

The Chief of Police was in Washington, D.C. on Friday but said he wants two things to happen: One is for the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents to stay, and the second is for the immigrant community to trust them. The latter is a pretty big gap that he hopes to close with a face-to-face meeting.

Various community groups spoke out on Friday to make it clear that immigrant communities are afraid of ICE agents working with police. Those groups say they want to see them gone.

If not, those groups say the fear of deportation will make crime worse throughout the city.

"They don't need them," said Siren Policy advocate Jazmin Segura. "They need the community to report crimes. They need the community to speak up and call the police if they witness a crime."

Just as the news conference was wrapping up, the independent police auditor delicately negotiated her own announcement: Police Chief Chris Moore is working on setting up a private meeting with the ICE agents and a select group of community leaders.

"By saying this to me, he is going to do what he can to arrange for a face-to-face meeting," said independent police auditor LaDoris Cordell. "It's a courageous stand, it's thinking outside the box and it is consistent with what he has said he would do." At this event Wednesday night, Chief Moore told ICE opponents that the agents are needed to help fight gang violence in the wake of historic budget cuts. There have been 28 murders this year, half of them gang related.

The chief has promised the only purpose of Operation Community Shield is to reduce violent crimes.

"If they start overstepping their bounds, as far as the immigration and enforcement goes, he's already made it very clear there's not going to be any hesitation," Sgt. Jason Dwyer with the San Jose Police Department said. "They'll be gone immediately."

Since taking over the police department in February, Moore has made great strides rebuilding trust with communities of color, but many say he should rethink his decision to partner with ICE Homeland Security investigators.

"There is a tremendous downside of this that is not worth it, and I think the chief has to follow that intelligence essentially from these groups," Raj Jayadev with the Police Chief Community Advisory Board said.

A representative for ICE said the agency is open to the kind of meeting proposed. If it takes place, the question is whether or not it will be enough to sway community leaders toward the police chief's way of thinking on this decisive issue.

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