Thursday, September 13, 2012

Chicago bolsters “sanctuary” status; a step forward no matter what critics say

I once recall speaking to a police officer who wasn’t exactly of a “liberal” mindset when it came to social issues, or anything having to do with immigration.

This particular cop objected to local governments, including the one that paid her salary, feeling the need to refuse to do business with Arizona-based companies as a way of punishing that state for having a Legislature that wanted to get local cops involved in immigration enforcement.

BUT I ALSO remember she liked measures such as “sanctuary city” or “safe haven” (or whatever label one prefers to use) status for communities – by which local police don’t meddle in immigration matters.

Her justification for support was that she liked any concept that would make the public at large feel more comfortable with their police officers.

Having people see the police as a potential friend creates a climate in which they will cooperate with law enforcement agencies.

Which in the end means more information out in the open for police to know about their communities, and a safer community overall.

THAT SEEMS, TO me at least, to be a rather straightforward way of viewing the world. I can’t seriously comprehend why anyone would have a problem understanding this.

Then again, I also realize there are some people who just have mindsets that go beyond any simple line of logic.

And I’m sure those people are going to be spewing their share of rhetoric about the City Council and its “radical” line of action concerning this particular issue.

Because the council on Wednesday gave its support to a measure put forth by Rahm Emanuel (whose thought process these days apparently isn’t totally dominated by teacher contract talks).

IN CHICAGO, POLICE would be prohibited from detaining a non-citizen with uncertain immigration status unless they are wanted on a criminal warrant.

City officials already are prohibited from asking anyone about their immigration status. This measure, known officially as “Welcome City,” would expand that idea to a new level.

Which supporters of the change say was necessary because there were times when police were learning of a person’s lack of a valid Visa to be in this country, even if they weren’t specifically asking for the information.

Usually, that occurs when police run the cursory background check to ensure that the busted tail light on a car really is nothing more – and that there isn’t a warrant for that person’s arrest for a violent crime!

BECAUSE THE “BY the book” mentality didn’t specify what was to be done in such a case, some officers were inclined to take the person into custody, while others were not.

The City Council has now made it clear that the ones who were not were the ones who were acting properly.

I don’t know how this will work in terms of day-to-day police operations. Because I also realize there are other factors that come into play when the matter of newcomers to this country deal with police.

Particularly when they come from countries where law enforcement is nothing more than the muscle of the government, or just a corrupt entity that people need protection from.

THOSE INDIVIDUALS ARE still going to have some sort of distrust of those “boys in blue” who don’t bear much of any resemblance to an old Barney Miller re-run.

If anything, a Hill Street Blues re-run (with the contempt those officers felt for the people who lived in the community they were supposed to be protecting) would be more accurate.

And anything that goes toward reducing contempt, either by the police or toward the police, is a good thing for our society – no matter how much the ideologues don’t want to acknowledge that fact.


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