A Virginia police officer has been suspended after he turned over to immigration officials a driver who was wanted for skipping a deportation hearing, police said Tuesday.
An internal police investigation was launched after the officer, while handling a traffic accident on September 21, noticed one of the drivers did not have a state driver’s license, Fairfax County Police Chief Edwin Roessler Jr. said.
When the officer looked up the driver’s information, he found that the person was wanted by US Immigration and Customers Enforcement (ICE) on a warrant for failing to show up to a deportation hearing, the chief said in a statement.
The officer contacted an ICE agent, detained the driver and then turned over custody to the agent who responded to the scene.
“As a matter of full transparency to our community — our police officer violated our longstanding policy and deprived a person of their freedom, which is unacceptable,” the chief said.
The police department since 2007 has banned officers from taking people into custody based only on an immigration law violation, according to the statement. Officers get training that “reinforces to our personnel that we do not enforce nor detain for administrative warrants and we have no authority to enforce federal law,” Roessler said.
Jurisdictions around the United States have similar policies limiting local governments and police forces from cooperating with federal immigration authorities. Critics, including President Donald Trump, say such rules endanger public safety, while supporters argue they foster trust between immigrant communities and law enforcement.
The driver taken into custody by the officer in Virginia was released after three hours and given an ankle monitor, the chief said, citing ICE.
“Our county is one of the most diverse counties in the nation and no one should have the perception that (Fairfax County Police Department) is acting as a civil immigration agent for ICE,” 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,” he added.