Policy Change Doesn't Stop Enforcement, Deane Says

By Kristen Mack
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, June 1, 2008

Police Chief Charlie T. Deane said he does not want Prince William County's modified illegal-immigration enforcement to "generate new expectations."

Deane is scheduled to give the Board of County Supervisors an update on enforcement and discuss the revised department policy at a board meeting Tuesday.

In April, supervisors directed police to question crime suspects about their immigration status after an arrest is made. The policy the board approved in October ordered officers to check the legal status of all suspects, no matter how minor the offense, if there was probable cause to think the person was in the country unlawfully.

Officers can still use their discretion to inquire about an individual's immigration status.

"Officers retain the authority, under both the previous policy and this policy, to make checks that are consistent with the law and good police practice," Deane said of the modified procedures.

Normally, general orders do not come before the board for discussion. But County Executive Craig S. Gerhart made an exception.

"There is a level of public interest and desire to have total clarity between the department and the board," Gerhart said.

Chairman Corey A. Stewart (R-At Large) had planned to use this as an opportunity to get the board to approve a resolution endorsing the updated policy and consider tweaking it again. But supervisors did not want to vote on the controversial proposal a third time.

"It's not necessary. If they feel that way, that's fine with me," Stewart said. "I'm fine with the policy as is. I think the policy changes make it superior and easier to do checks for police while at the same time limiting liability."

Deane suspended the probable-cause standard the day after the board's April vote. The 500-member police force, however, must receive training on the revised policy before it goes into effect. The target start date of the modified policy's implementation is the end of the month.

"I'm hoping we can get this settled and move on to better things," Stewart said.

Deane also is expected to provide up-to-date data on the number of citizenship and residency checks made since the original policy went into effect March 3. The last numbers he provided were for the first month of implementation.

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