A message from Chief Harris about SGPD’s MOU with Homeland Security Investigations

Over the last several days, we’ve been receiving questions about a memorandum of understanding that our department signed in December 2017 with Homeland Security Investigations (HSI). To address these questions, I wanted to take the time to outline the contents of the MOU so that you know the role of your local police department in this agreement.

First, I want to stress that this agreement with HSI cannot be used in any way that violates California Senate Bill 54 (known as the “sanctuary state” law). It’s our goal as a department to protect every resident of San Gabriel, including those that are documented and undocumented.

Background

As a department, we address three levels of criminal offenses: street level crimes, mid-major crimes and major crimes. Street level crimes are crimes that draw a response by our patrol or frontline personnel. If need be, they’ll also be investigated by our investigators. In contrast, major crimes are crimes that rely on county, state and federal resources.

As for mid-major crimes, police departments of our size usually don’t have the resources to take on complex and lengthy investigations on our own. We must often prioritize our resources to address frontline issues that demand immediate attention. This leaves us with crimes that are too complex to handle at the street level, but not large enough to warrant the use of county, state or federal resources.

MOU

To address mid-major crimes, our department signed an agreement with Homeland Security Investigations to address this gap with the use of federal resources. To do this, this agreement uses a task force that includes a San Gabriel Police Department detective, members of other law enforcement agencies and members of HSI.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement

While all HSI task forces are under the umbrella of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (otherwise known as ICE), these task forces have separate and distinct objectives. These HSI task forces aim to protect immigrants who have fallen victim to crimes by conducting transnational criminal investigations that protect the country – and its residents – from threats. This includes both documented and undocumented residents of our city.

To do this, the task force’s mission addresses document and benefit fraud, narcotics smuggling and trafficking, commercial trade and fraud, weapons smuggling, anti-gang enforcement, human rights violations, cyber-crimes and child exploitation, human smuggling and export enforcement.

Our HSI task force supervisor Christopher Kummerle is aware of our obligation to strictly adhere to SB 54. As a result, this task force uses its power to encourage witness cooperation with visa status considerations rather than on deportation.

California law

To vet this MOU, we consulted with our City Attorney who agrees that this MOU will have no bearing on SB 54, with the MOU explicitly noting that “HSI is not conveying the authority to enforce administrative violations of immigration law.” In plain English, this means that the San Gabriel Police Department will have no power or participation in immigration enforcement and deportations.

In addition, state law explicitly states that local law enforcement shall not place “peace officers under the supervision of federal agencies or employ peace officers deputized as special federal officers or special federal deputies for purposes of immigration enforcement.”

After conducting our due diligence, the department entered into the MOU with the approval of the City Manager. Under our municipal code, the City Manager has authorization to approve the MOU because the subject matter and effect of the MOU were already within the scope of the police department’s jurisdiction.

More information

If you’d like to learn more about the agreement, I’ve posted the San Gabriel Police Department’s MOU with HSI within a staff report for the February 6 City Council meeting here, along with the ICE Form 73-001 that outlines the city’s obligations in the agreement.

Our goal is to protect every resident – documented or undocumented – of San Gabriel, and we believe this is the most effective way to address crimes that negatively impact our community.

If you have any further questions or concerns, please reach out to me directly.