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Monday, February 11, 2008

Frederick County, MD Sheriff Invited to work with Immigrant Communities

Guy Djoken

Last week, Frederick County Sheriff Chuck Jenkins was proud to announce his new partnership with ICE to the people of Frederick County. The new agreement allows his deputies to arrest, detain and begin deportation for undocumented residents. His press conference held to announce the "good news" failed to justify to our satisfaction the reason behind his new agreement.

The two reasons given were to combat crime and terrorism in the county and make sure that criminals aliens are deported after serving their sentence in county jails. The sheriff does not need an extra authority to refer those who have been convicted in a court of law to be put in a deportation proceeding after their sentences. Furthermore, we have informed the Sheriff that we will support this proposal if he will give reassurance that he and his deputies will not go after those who have not committed a crime. Such reassurance would have been sufficient to gain the support and collaboration of the immigrant community and those providing them service. Instead, the Sheriff took the time to explain the circumstances under which undocumented residents may get caught up even if they have not committed a crime.

Giving the urgency of the situation, it is very important to prioritize and put first things first. Of course illegal immigration is a problem that should be resolved once and for all. However, not by the sheriff office but by politicians. We all need to exercise pressure where it is due for a comprehensive immigration overhaul. There is no way that each of the over 3000 counties in the country may adopt different immigration enforcement mechanism.

Given this fact, my humble opinion is that the sheriff should focus on the criminals who are here to prey on our community. This should be done by a clear change of tone at the sheriff office followed by a direct and constructive meeting with the immigrant community. The NAACP will be more than happy to facilitate such a meeting once the Sheriff agrees not to initiate deportation proceeding for those who have not committed a crime. We will then support and help his criminal alien program.

In all fairness, the immigration status of a defendant should be totally irrelevant throughout the investigation and prosecution. Despite repeated claims by the Sheriff that his deputies do not profile, the fact remain that Blacks and Hispanics were more likely than white drivers to be searched by state, county and city law officers after a traffic stop, and in many cases those searches were unnecessary, an investigation by The Frederick News-Post found last year:

In that article, there was a case of Erica and Mervyn Bond who were stopped by a sheriff's deputy for windows that were tinted too dark. A Frederick traffic judge later exonerated the Bonds and did not require them to pay any fines. The stop still cost the couple $1700 when it was all said and done.

Another case worth noting here is the case of Mauricio R. Arellano who was stopped by a Sheriff deputy for having too many air fresheners hanging from the rear view mirror. Arellano showed his Mexican driver's license and his international driver's license, a document the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration recognizes as providing legal authority to operate a vehicle. Despite showing those documents, Arellano was handcuffed and taken to the Frederick County Adult Detention Center on charges he didn't have proper identification. Many of us are convinced that Mr. Arellano's race was the sole justification of this harsh treatment from the Sheriff deputy.

Other issues with the Sherriff office include what our investigation has deemed an excessive use of the Taser weapon on school grounds. The unwelcome incident in a school should have prompted Sheriff Jenkins to order a review of his department's policy regarding Taser use. Such a decision may have prevented the tragic incident that followed ten days after that.

The Sheriff later on ordered a third party investigation by an unnamed group. The refusal to name such a group and include some of his critics in the process will cast a doubt and cloud of suspicion on any results when they are revealed. Another treacherous path on which the sheriff is walking is he is requiring those willing to exercise their constitutional rights, to obtain records from his office thru the Freedom of Information act. That decision, is regrettable and we urge him to reconsider.

Guy Djoken is President, NAACP Frederick County Maryland Chapter


Anonymous said...

These examples are illustrations of unnecessary power exercised in unnecessary ways. Let us all learn to be more observant of how much police power is being exercised around us and not cast it off as not being applicable to us. This mentality eventually expands to everyone. The fear that drives this kind of thinking is both unnatural and unnecessary.

Anonymous said...

I'm also concerned about paying 24 deputies, 4-5 weeks work, which equals two year's of a deputy salsry, for this training - then, we'll likely see incresed costs of lawsuits and court challenges - a boondoggle imo -