Hopewell Township Police Department offered a presentation regarding the Department’s policy regarding undocumented individuals, at last week’s Township Committee meeting.
“This is a public conversation because [it is an issue] in the [national] news and a lot of people are concerned about how we, as a community, welcome and manage interactions with people who may feel threatened or afraid in their own community,” said Deputy Mayor Julie Blake. “The police will talk about how they manage that both in terms of interaction with immigrants and also within the town. This is a conversation about best practices and an opportunity for people to hear and understand that what we do is responsible and reflective of the welcoming nature of our community.”
Chief Lance Maloney explained that certain serious criminal offenses trigger a responsibility on the arresting officials’ to inquire about immigration but is “appropriate under certain circumstances” and report the inquire to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”). “In accordance with the Attorney General’s Directive,when our department makes an arrest for any indictable crime (which involve 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th degree crimes), or for DWI, our officers will inquire about the arrestees citizenship, nationality and immigration status during the booking process,” Chief Maloney explained in a statement to MercerMe. “Some examples would be homicide, sexual assault, aggravated assault, burglary, robbery, etc.”
“As far as our police department is concerned,” Chief Maloney said, “nothing has changed over the past few months. Those who commit an offense are arrested. Certain crimes include a question about immigration status and the officer shall notify Immigration. This is within the standard operating procedure and is mandated by state law… While Hopewell Township will continue to enforce laws against someone who commits a crime, we will continue to assist regardless of immigration status and no one is detained on suspicious of their immigration status.”
The Department stressed however that “no victim, witness, potential witness or those participating in an investigation victims and witnesses should to be discouraged from approaching the police for fear of inquiry.”
“As local law enforcement we treat everyone the same,” explained Lieutenant Bill Springer, “But if we arrest someone for one of those [more serious] violations, we have an obligation to notify. We are not going around checking immigration status.” Lieutenant Chris Kascik added that the Department has not, in the 20 years he has been with the force, participated with any other law enforcement agency to try to identify undocumented individuals.
Several members of the Hopewell Township and surrounding communities spoke during the Township meeting urging the Township to adopt a “Fair and Welcoming” designation by resolution and provided the Committee with an information packet.
When asked whether the Township would consider such designation, Deputy Mayor Blake stated, “Hopewell Township already is a fair and welcoming community. We look forward to reviewing the detailed information that was shared in the packet to see if there are any additional opportunities to build on the strong foundation that already exits. I am so grateful to the community members who are committed to this issue and came to the police discussion Monday night. As far as I can tell, Hopewell Township police follow the federal, state, and local laws and are doing what is both safe and right for individuals with or without documentation.”