BPD Chief Addresses ICE Policy, 'Paranoia' Over Immigration
Bloomington Police Chief Clay Wheeler says his office hasn't had any contact with Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents in the six months since his office enacted a policy that specifies his officers won't aid in immigration matters.
“I can understand how it was a concern because there was the paranoia or the thought that there was much more going on,” Wheeler says. “In different parts of the country there was. It didn’t necessarily translate to here.”
In July, Mayor Tari Renner directed Wheeler to implement a plan for how Bloomington officers are to interact with immigration agents after a so-called Welcoming ordinance appeared to lack the votes to pass.
Pro-immigration activists had voiced opposition to the proposal saying it lacked sufficient protections for undocumented immigrants.
Wheeler said the department requires officers direct ICE requests to him, or to a lieutenant if ICE needs an immediate response.
He said only occasionally does ICE inquire about a criminal investigation. He said the most notable example has been human trafficking, where he says undocumented immigrants are often the victim of these crimes because they fear they will be deported if they report it to police.
“For the most part, it’s something that doesn’t really occur at all,” Wheeler said. “If there were to be something that (ICE) would ask for, or if they would go look for violent offenders and ask for our help or something, it would have to be something that we at a command level would make a decision on based on the needs of the community.”
Wheeler adds BPD's policy is similar to the one Normal's Town Council adopted last year.
The Bloomington Public Safety and Community Relations Board will soon review the first complaint it has received regarding alleging BPD failed to adequately resolve a complaint against an officer since the panel was formed at the start of 2018.
Wheeler says he couldn’t say if the PSCRB’s role has changed public perceptions about the department or his officers’ behavior, but he welcomes the scrutiny and accountability it brings.
“I support anything where our officers say, ‘I need to do the right thing and do things the right way,’” Wheeler says. “If they feel that and have changed anything – I don’t see that they’ve changed anything but if that’s a possibility it certainly doesn’t hurt.”
The panel may issue a recommendation to Wheeler and to City Manager Tim Gleason if it finds the department failed to adequately address the complaint.
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