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  • Enforcing "quality of life" laws with undocumented immigrants

    We have a situation in my city that must be similar to what others are experiencing. I'm wondering how other agencies have handled it.

    We have a significant population of undocumented immigrants from various Central American countries. One homeless group in particular has taken up residence in the woods surrounding one of our public parks. Their hobby is drinking vodka in quanties that would kill a good-size herd of cattle. As you can imagine, their behavior can be unpleasant and make other citizens uncomfortable. They also end up with alcohol poisoning on a fairly regular basis and have to be transported to the hospital via ambulance.

    You'd think that as a unit of the police department that specializes in park and beach patrol we'd remove them, but it's not so easy. At one time we took a pretty hard-line approach. Possession of hard liquor in the parks is an Infraction, as is violating the park curfew of 12 midnight to 5:30 AM. We would approach and ask for a valid ID so we could write the summons; when they could not produce one, we would take them into custody where they would have to post a bond in the amount of the fine. Since none of them can post bond, they would remain incarcerated until their court appearance. The overall result was that they didn't want to live in those locations anymore, and moved on. Until....

    ....we were directed by the court to stop doing that. Since the only punishment for an Infraction is a fine, it was felt that incarcerating them pending a court appearance had a disproportionate punative effect on these individuals, since anyone else would get a mail-in ticket and be on their way, while these folks would spend the night (often the weekend) in jail on an offense that carried no prison time. Don't bother with counter-arguments -- I know them all. The courts don't care.

    Of course that means they are now immune to prosecution for anything short of a genuine crime. They have befriended a lawyer of the same ethnicity as themselves, and he has advised them never to answer law enforcement officers' questions, even those concerning their identity. With no ID and no cooperation, there is no way to issue them a summons, and the court says we can't arrest them unless they commit a CRIME. My state repealed its public drunkenness laws years ago on the basis that they violated Constitutional protections; drunks can now only be arrested if they engage in specific criminal behavior in addition to their state of intoxication. So no criminal statute applies unless they do something specific. And often when they do, it's one or two people in a group of ten or twelve, and the witnesses cannot single out who it is (and the group, of course, denies that it was anyone).

    Meanwhile the community doesn't want them where they are (nor does the Parks & Rec department, which has to clean up after them).

    The police department, on the other hand, has a directive out stating that officers should respond and handle any legitimate citizen complaint against them that has an identifiable complainant, but we are to avoid officer-initiated contacts unless a crime is observed. The department is worried about a class action suit (and with good reason -- one has been threatened by their free lawyer). But of course this ties our hands further.

    A perfect example of why people don't want this group there was this Sunday. Picture this: several families are enjoying the nice sunny day and participating in a pickup baseball game on one of our athletic fields. One of these resident individuals, drunk out of his mind, happens along. He stops at the side of the field where they're playing, drops his pants, and -- in the presence of men, women, and children as young as seven -- defecates on the field. He gives the audience the finger as he strolls away after wiping himself with his bare hand.

    Of course in that instance we had plenty of complainants and a positive ID of the fellow, whom we apprehended... er... brown-handed.

    But obviously sitting around and waiting for such incidents -- or something where someone actually gets hurt -- makes us look like we're not doing our jobs, which (from where I sit) is a pretty accurate picture. But we've been TOLD not to do our job, at least in this regard, except when there is clear criminality.

    What have others experienced with groups like this, and how did your department handle it?

    Pete

  • #2
    In a perfect world they would be deported.

    They need a tent city.
    What is Perseverance?
    -Perseverance is commitment, hard work, patience, endurance.
    -Perseverance is being able to bear difficulties calmly and without complaint.
    -PERSEVERANCE IS TRYING AGAIN AND AGAIN.


    BOP - BPA - ICE

    Comment


    • #3
      First, I am shocked that the court has taken it upon itself to issue orders about booking versus citations. In most states the manner in which arrestees are to be processed is dictated by the legislature and not the courts. By ordering you not to book arrestees who do not otherwise meet the criteria for release, the court is attempting to substitute its philosophy for the legislative process and in doing so, denying the people the right to regulate their society through the democratic process.

      The city of Santa Monica had a somewhat similar problem. All misdemeanors and infractions went to the City Attorney for prosecution while felonies went to the District Attorney. The City Attorney refused to prosecute the so called "homeless" because be didn't believe in persecuting poor people by charging them with "economic crimes."

      In California, we can arrest if we have reasonable cause to believe a felony has been committed, irrespective of whether one has been committed or not. When Santa Monica PD found misdemeanor or infraction situations, they looked a little harder and found PC for a felony arrest. Often it was because the suspect fit the description of an outstanding burglary, robbery, assault or grand theft suspect. There are usually so many crimes that it is not hard to find one that matches your suspect. Of course, felony arrests were mandatory booking situations.so the suspect immediately went off to jail. Because this was technically a felony arrest, the PD took it to the District Attorney. He would then reduce things to the original misdemeanor or infraction that it was and prosecute the case himself.

      In your situation you can check to see if your suspect fits the description of anyone outstanding from a more serious crime and if so, arrest accordingly. Are two or more suspects committing a crime together? In my state that meets the elements of conspiracy (a felony) and would meet the grounds for booking. Does the suspect have a screwdriver, pliers, or other items in his possession that meet the criteria for burglary tools? It's just a matter of being creative. Think back to your rookie days when you knew how to turn a mole hill into a mountain and it will be easy. Similarly, you've got to have some egg head or old timer in your department who knows every obscure law on the books. Check with him for a list of bookable offenses you can use on these guys.

      Also, don't forget the power of the press. While it would be inappropriate for you as individual officers to go to the media, it is acceptable for your Union or POA to do it. They can team up with a group of citizens who are concerned about quality of life violations and what the court has done. Public pressure can cause the courts to back off, or if the law allows, get your city council to pass misdemeanor ordinances that will help deal with the issue.
      Going too far is half the pleasure of not getting anywhere

      Comment


      • #4
        Is littering a criminal offense in your state? In North Carolina intentional littering is a misdemeanor, therefore we can arrest for it.

        I just got clear form assisting our drug guys with a traffic stop. They had info from several CIs that a car we had stopped was transporting a large amount of crack. Based on what we had, there was not quite enough for a PC search without a dog hit or some other offense. We didn't have a K9 working so we had to call the Sheriff's Office for one. He was a way off, and we were not sure he was going to make it within a "reasonable time". However while the drug guys were talking to the driver (suspect) the passenger smoked and threw out on the ground two cigarette butts. There we go, intentional littering; a misdemeanor.

        I talked to the drug guys and I was about to arrest the passenger for littering, which got us a free seach of the passenger compartment, when the K9 showed up. So, we let him run the dog. It hit, and we located a large amount of crack under the front passenger seat. I ended up just citing the passenger for littering instead of arresting, but if the K9 had been any farther away I would have arrested the passenger and we would have found the crack without the K9.

        Moral of the story, find the obscure statutes that are technically misdemeanors and use them to solve problems.
        -Landric

        "The Engine could still smile...it seemed to scare them"-Felix

        Comment


        • #5
          So, your telling us that a court of law is ordering your department to not enforce the law or to ignore it?

          You live in a "poopy" hole (don't want to get banned again) and it won't get any better until the people who live there decide enough is enough.

          I have no suggestions past
          find the obscure statutes that are technically misdemeanors and use them to solve problems
          except to "move" maybe.

          You can maybe hope that "some sorry so'n'so" who is totally annonymous takes it upon him/her self to write about the sympathetic judge who has hidden gold coins in his yard and who has promised immunity from all crimes committed there by down troden misunderstood illegal immigrants ... on the back of a map to his residence.

          I'm just saying ... ... it "could" happen?

          Last edited by t150vsuptpr; 08-06-2008, 10:31 PM.
          "That's right man, we've got mills here that'll blow that heap of your's right off the road."

          "Beautiful Daughter of the Stars."(it's my home now)

          >>>>> A Time for Choosing <<<<<

          Retired @ 31yr 2mo as of 0000 hrs. 01-01-10. Yeah, all in all, it was good.

          Comment


          • #6
            I not only see racism, but I see that they are ordering you to enforce the laws only upon citizens who are otherwise usually law abiding, and to just ignore the ones that are never law abiding (in addition to being here illegally).

            Comment


            • #7
              Don't ignore the small stuff. Even a misdemeanor can lead to something very big, even to something requiring the involvement of federal agencies. And I am not just talking immigration here.
              Though their numbers are many, as the grass upon the field, we will count them at the end of the day.

              Comment


              • #8
                The municipality should change the offenses' punishment to make them misdemeanors.
                Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored. -- Aldous Huxley
                Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity. -- Albert Einstein

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by L-1 View Post
                  First, I am shocked that the court has taken it upon itself to issue orders about booking versus citations.
                  Yep -- you and me both. Welcome to living in an uber-liberal state.

                  Public pressure can cause the courts to back off, or if the law allows, get your city council to pass misdemeanor ordinances that will help deal with the issue.
                  I like that second idea a lot.

                  Pete

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Sarkis View Post
                    I not only see racism, but I see that they are ordering you to enforce the laws only upon citizens who are otherwise usually law abiding, and to just ignore the ones that are never law abiding (in addition to being here illegally).
                    No argument from me.

                    Pete

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      It seems homeless people tend to have dogs. There are a lot of Animal Control codes, at least in my jurisdiction, that are misdemeanors.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Research your penal code/vehicle code and anything else and start hammering them with EVERYTHING......letter of the law enforcement, with absolutely no warnings or breaks......

                        They will get the hint sooner or later and move on.....
                        The posts on this forum by this poster are of his personal opinion, and his personal opinion alone

                        "Politicians are like diapers. They need to be changed often and for the same reason"

                        "We fight not for glory; nor for wealth; nor honor, but only and alone we fight for freedom, which no good man surrenders but with his life"

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by LA DEP View Post
                          Research your penal code/vehicle code and anything else and start hammering them with EVERYTHING......letter of the law enforcement, with absolutely no warnings or breaks...
                          At the operational end we have to tread rather carefully. There is at least one attorney salivating over the potential for a class action suit alleging racist motives. As a result our current marching orders are to limit our actions involving this group to responses to complaints from identifiable complainants, and to stay away from officer-initiated encounters such as what you suggest. They don't want anything that could be interpreted as a pretextual encounter. Of course the problem here is that it isn't pretextual -- it's a very legitimate problem. But they're afraid of appearances and what those appearances could be turned into in a civil rights case by a lawyer with an agenda.

                          Pete

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by cottonwood 41 View Post
                            It seems homeless people tend to have dogs. There are a lot of Animal Control codes, at least in my jurisdiction, that are misdemeanors.
                            No dogs here. This is not a homeless encampment (I've seen those in other places). It's a group of people who are perpetually so drunk that I don't know why they don't keel over and die of it. I doubt they could form the intent to FIND a dog, much less keep it for more than an hour.

                            Pete

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by PeteGould View Post
                              At the operational end we have to tread rather carefully. There is at least one attorney salivating over the potential for a class action suit alleging racist motives. As a result our current marching orders are to limit our actions involving this group to responses to complaints from identifiable complainants, and to stay away from officer-initiated encounters such as what you suggest. They don't want anything that could be interpreted as a pretextual encounter. Of course the problem here is that it isn't pretextual -- it's a very legitimate problem. But they're afraid of appearances and what those appearances could be turned into in a civil rights case by a lawyer with an agenda.

                              Pete
                              I feel your pain....happens alot here in different areas of LA........another option is to COMPLETELY stop all enforcement action with them, and let them run amuck.......the citizens will start screaming bloody murder before long......

                              ps....a civil rights lawyer with an agenda is redundant....
                              The posts on this forum by this poster are of his personal opinion, and his personal opinion alone

                              "Politicians are like diapers. They need to be changed often and for the same reason"

                              "We fight not for glory; nor for wealth; nor honor, but only and alone we fight for freedom, which no good man surrenders but with his life"

                              Comment

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