Fairfax County, VA – Morale is low at the Fairfax County Police Department (FCPD) after the chief suspended an officer who turned over an illegal immigrant with a warrant to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
The incident occurred at about 2:46 p.m. on Sept. 21 as the Fairfax County officer was working a crash scene at Harrison Lane on South Kings Highway in Alexandria, according to a statement released by FCPD.
One of the drivers involved in the wreck didn’t have a driver’s license so the officer ran his name through the computer to verify his record.
The query came back with a flag from ICE.
The man was an illegal immigrant and was wanted by ICE for failure to appear for a deportation hearing, The Washington Times reported.
Fairfax County confirmed the warrant and the officer called the ICE agent who was listed as the contact.
The agent was nearby and responded quickly to take the fugitive into custody, according to the FCPD statement.
Fairfax County Police Chief Edwin C. Roessler said the illegal immigrant was taken by ICE and processed for deportation, The Washington Times reported.
He has since been released with an ankle bracelet pending the outcome of the deportation hearing.
Chief Roessler announced Tuesday that the officer who contacted ICE had been suspended from the police department.
The chief said that the officer, whose name has not been released, “deprived a person of their freedom” by cooperating with ICE, The Washington Times reported.
He said in his statement that the officer’s actions violated FCPD policy and that he had launched an internal investigation as soon as he learned about it.
“Our county is one of the most diverse counties in the nation and no one should have the perception that FCPD is acting as a civil immigration agent for ICE,” Chief Roessler said. “This matter damages our reputation and the longstanding policy that I have stated many times that our officers shall not act as immigration agents.”
“The officer involved in this event has been relieved of all law enforcement duties pending the outcome of this investigation. It is my duty to enforce our FCPD – and Fairfax County – policies and hold all accountable for their actions,” the chief said in his statement.
He also said the policy is that the officer should not have even bothered to confirm the warrant through the county system because most administrative warrants are from ICE, The Washington Times reported.
The Fairfax County Police Association (FCPA) board released a scathing statement in response to the officer’s suspension.
“The actions they took were done with the best of intentions and in keeping with what they believed was the spirit of the law,” the FCPA board wrote. “The FCPA condemns the statement made by Chief Roessler as inflammatory and demoralizing. This incident has been sensationalized and our officer has been sacrificed in favor of a media spectacle.”
“This comes at a time when our department is already experiencing an unparalleled deterioration in morale and an unprecedented distrust of our leadership,” the statement continued. “Politically motivated decisions cannot be disguised as transparency. We appreciate the outpouring of support that has been received from our community and around the country.”
A Fairfax County police source told Blue Lives Matter that morale at the police department has been bad for a while because “there is a disconnect between the command staff and troops.”
The source said officers are frustrated because they just want to enforce the laws, not be used as political pawns.
“Our policy is dictated by political beliefs,” he told Blue Lives Matter.
Jessica Vaughan, policy studies director at the Center for Immigration Studies, told The Washington Times she thought the situation was wrongly handled by the police chief.
“The police chief is ordering an investigation of an officer who did exactly the right thing by responding to an active ICE warrant on an illegal alien who was a fugitive,” Vaughan said. “It’s astonishing that a police chief is more intent on punishing his officer than seeing to it that legitimate laws are enforced.”
She compared what the officer did to a suspect being held for a warrant issued by neighboring Montgomery County in Maryland.
Vaughan told The Washington Times she thought Chief Roessler wanted to shame the officer.