San Jose: Law enforcement leaders denounce ICE policy
San Jose Police Officers' Association President Paul Kelly speaks to reporters about his opposition to the county's ICE detainer policy. Photo by Nadia Lopez.

Law enforcement officials condemned the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors in a news conference Wednesday, following a vote Tuesday to not allow local authorities to notify ICE when detainees are released.

The unanimous decision sparked outrage amongst police officers, who have been advocating for a change in policy for years.

“We cannot protect our residents and keep our officers safe if violent, repeat offenders are continuously let back into our community. Our officers are being attacked and our communities are being preyed upon,” said Paul Kelly, president of the San Jose Police Officers’ Association. “We have not given up on this issue. We will continue to push to ensure the county will do the right thing, which is to protect as many people as possible from violent offenders, regardless of the immigration status.”

Kelly said that it is not possible to ignore “the fact that some of the repeat offenders are undocumented immigrants” and added that people will continue to be in danger and “victimized” if the policy is not changed. The true fight, according to Kelly, is not about immigration — it’s about public safety.

Kelly said the inaction on behalf of county supervisors is “absolutely a political decision.”

“Pick up the phone. Bambi Larson would be alive today if all they did was pick up the phone. There will be more Bambi Larsons. We have to protect them,” added Kelly, who insisted that it is not within law enforcement’s agenda to target undocumented immigrants who have not committed serious or violent crimes.

But supporters of the county’s sanctuary city policy said that ICE already has access to offenders through an extensive database for arrest data. In addition, online programs such are the county’s inmate finder and the Victim Information and Notification System are available to ICE and help law enforcement officials track down offenders.

Supervisor Cindy Chavez said that she was not sure that a notification policy would have saved Larson’s life. The alleged attacker was under the influence of drugs and suffered from mental illness, two factors that some local leaders believe are to blame.

“The big issues we’re taking a look at are our public justice and safety systems. We’re going to continue to do that. Any change we would’ve made to the policy today is unclear to me that would’ve protected Bambi Larson or others,” said Chavez. “It’s a bigger conversation.”

Following questions from reporters, Kelly said Wednesday that ICE authorities have access to information about detainees, but not knowing when those offenders are released from the jail system is fundamental for the authorities to go after those individuals.

Kelly said that a strategy is in the works to push for a notification policy, although no formal plans were mentioned.

Contact Nadia Lopez at nadia@sanjosespotlight.com or follow @n_llopez on Twitter.

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