Ambiguous leadership, unintended consequences

Sep 27, 2017 at 10:36 am
Mayor Greg Fischer

Mayor Greg Fischer and police Chief Steve Conrad announced a new policy providing a framework for when metro police will work with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Officers — ICE.

It’s not enough... not even close.

And the absence of leadership on this issue will lead to only more problems, more misuse of Louisville police and more families being torn apart.

The police collaboration with ICE does not exhibit the compassion the mayor so often speaks about. In no way should this new policy reassure Louisville’s immigrant community that their families are any safer than they were before.

In no way does it diminish the hypocrisy that Fischer displayed when earlier he pledged that police were not enforcing immigration laws, but then a Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting story showed officers were collaborators. It was that profound story that provoked the most recent policy change.

But even that will not bring clarity to why Louisville refuses to declare itself a sanctuary city. Do we support our immigrant community, or not? Are we not helping federal agents enforce federal laws, or are we just signaling to them: This is who you need to talk to when you call for help?

Most important, the new policy is a sham, a facade. It’s an ugly political curtain that hardly covers a hole in the wall. And the next time there is a family ripped apart, it won’t be the fault of the police officers dispatched, or the commanding officer who calls in the order... it will be the fault of our leaders for not leading.

The policy offers three scenarios in which Louisville officers will assist ICE: “when there is a criminal (not immigration status) warrant,” “when crime has occurred or is occurring” “or in an emergency situation, when there is a clear public danger.”

In other words, basically when police should be called, and expected to show up.

Thanks for clarifying what police do... but what about helping federal immigration agents?

If we are not clear, people will interpret things in a way that serves their interests or reflects their personality. And, in every instance in which policy is left up to people, you get unintended and unexpected consequences. This policy just puts the LMPD in a position to officially violate its directive, as opposed to the loose guidelines previously in place.

In short, these policies sound more like excuses that can be used when the police are used by a federal agency. Sure, we don’t serve as immigration officers... only in these situations.

Ultimately, Mr. Mayor, you cannot guarantee that the mistakes of the past won’t happen thanks to this policy. The family that was torn apart — the one in the KyCIR story that LEO ran Sept. 13 — would be no safer had this policy been in effect when ICE called.

Moreover, part of the policy is being sold on transparency — that more of the process will be transparent to ensure compliance. The problem is, if the guidelines aren’t clear, or leave room for interpretation and arbitrary application, transparency is meaningless. Not to mention, transparency of a process predicated on bad policy isn’t an improvement.

So the question is simple: Is LMPD helping ICE, or not? Better yet, are our local tax dollars being spent enforcing federal laws?

Of course, nobody wants ICE officers to be in danger. But neither do we want our police in unnecessarily dangerous situations. Not only that, but Louisville police are paid for by Louisville tax dollars for the sole purpose of enforcing Louisville laws.

If ICE wants law enforcement backup for dangerous situations, it should call the FBI — the federal government’s police force. As it is now, it calls us like some freeloading older brother on Halloween, asking us to take the risk knocking on doors, only to deliver the goods to them back home.

Immigration is a federal issue. It should be implemented using federal resources, including federal agents who were trained in enforcing immigration policies.

Louisville’s new policy puts LMPD commanders and officers in an unfair position, which will lead to unintended consequences.

And it’s the result of ambiguous leadership that won’t, make a tough political decision.