Immigration raid sparks police spat |

Immigration raid sparks police spat

Bob Berwyn
Vail, CO Colorado

SUMMIT COUNTY “The lack of communication between federal and local officials during last week’s immigration sweep continues to be a concern for the Summit County Sheriff’s Office and the Silverthorne Police Department, officials say.

From the standpoint of officer safety, local law enforcement agencies need to know in advance when the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency is conducting operations, said Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Paulette Horr.

“All our people need to know,” Horr said.

The ICE sweep was conducted between June 20 and June 22, resulting in at least 28 arrests in Summit County, with additional arrests elsewhere in the region.

The operation targeted individuals who are under final deportation orders. But it’s not clear if all the individuals arrested in Summit County were in that category.

The arrests were part of a national crackdown aimed at reducing the number of fugitive aliens in the country, estimated at about 632,000 by the ICE.

Federal officials did make a call to Summit County Dispatch on June 20, the day the operation began, said ICE spokesman Carl Rusnok. But that information did not get out to all the local jurisdictions, suggesting there may have been a communication breakdown within the Summit County law enforcement community.

Horr said Sheriff John Minor called the regional ICE office in Denver. Minor said Tuesday he was still trying to contact one of the leaders of the federal detention and removal team to discuss communications.

Lack of communication could lead to dangerous situations if federal agents appear on a scene while local officers are conducting an operation, Minor said.

“The last thing we want are some plainclothes people popping out of an unmarked car, potentially with guns drawn,” Minor said. “That’s a recipe for tragedy.”

Similar scenarios have played out frequently across the country, he said.

Minor said he wants to make it very clear to the federal agency that he wants to be notified of future immigration crackdowns in advance.

“It’s our community and when everyone leaves, we have to answer to our community,” he said. “There was a snafu in the communications on this one.”

Silverthorne Police Chief Joe Russell expressed similar concerns. Russell was out of town when the raids started last week. He did say that his officers were notified via dispatch that ICE was conducting an operation in the area, but said that previous operations included collaboration and pre-planning.

“It’s a concern on a lot of levels,” Russell said. “The Silverthorne Police Department has spent a lot of time and energy developing a relationship with the immigrant community. When local law enforcement officials don’t seem to know what’s going on in their communities, it doesn’t make it any easier in terms of trust and keeping lines of communication open.”

The Sheriff’s Office didn’t hear about the enforcement action until Friday, June 22, two days after the raid began, and Dillon Police Chief John Mackey also hadn’t heard about the immigration sweep as of June 21.

Horr said federal agents were transporting the arrested aliens to a parking lot near the Sheriff’s Office and holding them there for transport to the Park County jail without ever contacting local authorities.

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