Local law enforcement agencies agreed they wouldn’t be adopting any of the American Civil Liberties Union’s nine model policies any time soon.
Law enforcement representatives from Klickitat and Skamania counties gathered last week at the White Salmon Pioneer Center to discuss the nine model state and local law enforcement policies put forth by the ACLU. Representatives stated law enforcement officials within both counties already practiced impartial application of state and local law and found the policies redundant to already existing ones.
The event was hosted by local volunteers and meant to provide answers regarding how law enforcement viewed the ACLU’s nine proposed policies. The ACLU published the nine policies for law enforcement officials to consider as a response to the Trump Administration’s “mass deportation agenda,” according to the ACLU’s People Power Web site.
The ACLU is a nonpartisan, non-profit organization that works to “defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in this country by the Constitution and laws of the United States.” The organization provides legal assistance in cases where civil liberties are deemed at risk.
Law enforcement officials who paneled the discussion included Bingen-White Salmon Police Department Police Chief Tracy Wyckoff, Klickitat County Sheriff Bob Songer, Skamania County Sheriff David Brown, and Goldendale Police Chief Reggie Bartkowski.
The Klickitat County Sheriff’s Office and Skamania County Sheriff’s Office both issued formal letters regarding the ACLU’s nine model state and local law enforcement policies and rules, which were distributed at the meeting.
Volunteer facilitators of the discussion were Klickitat County Democrats Chair Sasha Bentley, and local knowledge ecologist Christina Bowen. Both individuals volunteered to organize the event and were not representing the ACLU, although Bentley did inform attendees of her membership with the organization.
The panel discussion wasn’t a smooth operation, but was well-attended by residents from Skamania and Klickitat counties. Multiple members of the audience were hostile and disrespectful to others throughout the discussion, often speaking over facilitators and issuing personal opinions while others spoke.
Those who attended were asked more than once to hold applause after comments in order to keep the meeting civil.
The intended focus of the law enforcement meeting was to discuss ACLU’s policies, but questions often circled back to Klickitat County Sheriff Songer’s illegal drug use and distribution signs.
The first rule, of the nine listed model policies, is the Judicial Warrant Rule, which states “Officials shall require judicial warrant prior to detaining an individual or in any manner prolonging the detention of an individual…”
The second rule the ACLU included was the No Facilitation Rule, “Officials shall not arrest, detain, or transport an individual solely on the basis of an immigration detainer or other administrative document issues by ICE or CBP, without judicial warrant.”
The third rule, titled Defined Access/Interview Rule, states that “No official shall permit ICE or CBP agents access to count, city, state facilities or any person in custody for investigative interviews,” unless acting under a court order or legitimate law enforcement purpose.
Clear Identification Rule, was listed as the fourth model policy from the ACLU. The rule asks for proper notification from ICE or CBP to an individual engaged by either agency, specifically that agents “Be required to wear duty jackets and make their badges visible at all times while in count, city, state, facilities.”
The fifth rule is Don’t Ask Rule, where county, city, or state “officials shall not inquire into the immigration of citizenship status of an individual.” Except, when the inquiry relates to a legitimate law enforcement purpose unrelated to enforcement of a civil immigration law.
As a sixth rule, the ACLU issued a Privacy Protection Rule where no official can release personal identifiable data to ICE or CBP, which may be used to determine an individual’s religion, ethnicity or race.
The seventh rule, Discriminatory Surveillance Prohibition Rule, states that no agency “shall authorize or engage in the human or technological surveillance of a person or group based solely” on religion, ethnicity, race, or immigration status.
Redress Rule, rule number eight, declares “Any person who alleges a violation of this policy may file a written complaint for investigation with an [oversight entity].”
The final rule, rule number nine, is a Fair and Impartial Policing Rule where “No official shall interrogate arrest, detain or take other law enforcement action against an individual based upon that individual’s perceived race, national origin, religion, language, or immigration status…”
The underlying theme of all the statements made in response to the ACLU’s nine model policies by Wyckoff, Brown, Bartkowski, and Songer was that local law enforcement would be upholding state and local law and were not responsible for enforcing federal statutes.
It was made clear to attendees by law enforcement representatives that all the represented agencies would cooperate with ICE if an individual detained by the city, or county, had a criminal background or had violated local or state law.
“When it comes to policy, again we go by the law with our policy,” explained Police Chief Bartkowski. “We rule, pretty much everything we do, from case law. All of our policies have gone through accreditation. I have no problem talking about policy.” Bartkowsku encouraged residents who wanted their voices herd to attend Goldendale city council meetings and have their comments taken on the record.
“I do not agree with most of the ACLU on [their] position on this stuff,” said Songer, “I think they’re trying to be a bully about it, I think they’re trying to force law enforcement into following their ideals of how law enforcement is to operate.”
“The bottom line is, we don’t have the deputies to go out here and do sweeps, we don’t have the man power to do that,” Songer continued. “But those that are here illegally, and commit additional crimes, or criminal activity above the fact that they’re here illegally, then when we arrest them ICE will be notified and we’ll honor ICE’s decision on whether they take them into custody.”
Skamania County Sheriff Brown took issue with the ACLU’s ninth rule, explaining that the Sheriff’s Office is impartial and does not apply the law solely based an individual’s race, national origin, religion, language, or immigration status.
“You folks are blessed with some of the finest public servants in the state of Washington, and they are second to none in how they treat the public, how they do their job, how they carry out their oath, and they understand this,” Brown said. “This particular rule proposed by the ACLU is a slap in the face to law enforcement in the Gorge or across the state.”
“That’s our job, we don’t discriminate,” Brown added.
Bowen clarified that the rules put fourth were nationally published to try and address law enforcement agencies that weren’t impartial, and that the specific rule may not apply to the Gorge directly but could be applicable in other areas of the country.
“We do not need to add [ACLU] policy to our policy. Our policy, at this current time, doesn’t allow us to discriminate,” explained Wyckoff. “We don’t discriminate against race, religion, immigration status or anything in any way shape or form. We treat everybody fair and equal no matter who you are, within our jurisdictional boundaries, it will never change.”
“There is no need for us to create new policy or new procedure because we already have that within our jurisdictional boundaries and within our policies and procedures now,” said Wyckoff. “Nothing is changing for us. We have been doing it right all along and we’re not going to change that because how people see us in another light from another area.
“We’re doing the right things here and we will continue to treat you with respect and anybody else that comes through our community with respect,” noted Wyckoff.