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Bloomington Police Chief Seeks Immigrant Policy Similar to Normal

Clay Wheeler has served with the Bloomington Police Department since 1991.
Clay Wheeler has served with the Bloomington Police Department since 1991.
Bloomington Police Chief Clay Wheeler said he plans to craft an immmigration policy for the department that will be similar to Normal's.

Bloomington Police Chief Clay Wheeler said Monday he plans to draft an immigration policy for his department that’s similar to the Welcoming ordinance Normal adopted last month.
Mayor Tari Renner canceled Monday's special City Council meeting after determining he lacked the votes to pass such an ordinance. He instead recommended Wheeler's department craft its own policies regarding how its officers interact with federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents.

"The one thing you find in police work is there's no black and white. There's a gray area."

A coalition of immigration activists had urged the city to reject the final ordinance, claiming it lacked adequate protections for immigrant families.

Wheeler said while the city lacked a formal policy to guide its interactions with undocumented immigrants, he said the current political climate has fueled misconceptions.

“I think one misconception the community has because of the attention that has come through nationally and because of the local debate is that the local police department is having details with ICE and going out and rounding people up,” Wheeler said. “It couldn’t be further from the truth.”

Wheeler said the city's policy should closely mirror Normal's, which says among other things, the town can't investigate someone solely for an immigration violation and that the town's police officers must get approval from the town's police chief before communicating with ICE agents.

Wheeler added while he’s only had brief discussions with Renner on the matter, but he would likely involve immigration groups before formalizing the policy.

“I want to give a little bit of a framework to start any discussions they may have and that might be in rolling out the policy and letting them see it, or maybe we might be able to collaborate with a few before that happens,” Wheeler said.

Wheeler stopped short of suggesting his department would only make contact with ICE in cases which his officers had to comply.

“The one thing you find in police work is there’s no black and white. There’s a gray area,” Wheeler said. “You can’t just have one cookie-cutter fix because there are so many variables that come into these things.”

Wheeler said once the rules are implemented, the department will distribute them through the media, social media and possibly the city’s new Public Safety and Community Relations Board.

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Eric Stock is the News Director at WGLT. You can contact Eric at ejstoc1@ilstu.edu.