The City of Phoenix on Monday released improved immigration-related policies for the police department. The changes to Phoenix Police Operations Order 4.48 follow years of advocacy from the ACLU of Arizona and other immigrants’ rights groups, including Puente and the Center for Neighborhood Leadership. People Power activists were also essential to ensure the changes were made.
Important changes to the policy include:
- Officers are now prohibited from asking victims and witnesses of crime about their immigration status;
- Officers are now barred from asking students about their immigration status and from calling U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) while on school grounds;
- Officers are prohibited from holding a person for longer than it takes to address the purpose of the stop (e.g., speeding) in order to verify immigration status;
- Officers are now required to receive approval from a sergeant before contacting ICE; and
- The Phoenix Police Department is finally required to keep records and data on all contact with ICE.
Many of Phoenix’s changes are consistent with immigration-related policies that have been in place for years in Tucson and Mesa and which the ACLU of Arizona also helped secure. The revised Phoenix policies are also in line with Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office policies, which were instituted because of the ACLU racial profiling lawsuit Ortega Melendres v. Arpaio.
The revisions are an important step toward eliminating racial profiling by Phoenix police. These improvements will also help ensure that all people in Phoenix who are victims or witnesses of crime, regardless of immigration status, will feel secure reporting their experience to police.
In addition to the policy changes, Phoenix Police released a new form that officers will complete when they contact ICE. Data collected with this form, if properly recorded and retained, will provide the public with valuable information about how Phoenix police officers are interacting with federal immigration agents.
However, Phoenix should immediately add two more data fields to this form: the time a stop begins and the time that it ends. The duration of a traffic stop is a critical indicator. Because longer stops are more likely to involve violations of people’s rights, this information will allow police administration and the public to more easily flag potentially problematic stops.
Recording the stop duration will also help ensure police officers are not violating the new policy that dictates officers cannot hold people for longer than it takes to address the issue necessitating the stop (for instance, speeding) in order to verify immigration status.
Prior to the policy revisions released Monday, Phoenix Police officers were following immigration-related policies that were outdated. The old policies directed police officers to enforce immigration-related laws that courts blocked, including portions of Arizona’s SB 1070 enjoined in the ACLU lawsuit Valle del Sol v. Whiting.
By Will Gaona
Will Gaona is the Policy Director for the ACLU of Arizona.