LMPD :: Louisville Metro Police Department
Louisville Metro Police Department - Louisville, Kentucky

New LMPD policy: No working with immigration officials to enforce federal laws

Courier~Journal - Louisville, Kentucky
Darcy Costello - Courier~Journal

"This policy is a positive step that will make it clear to our officers how they should handle requests for help from federal immigration authorities." - Mayor Greg Fischer

New LMPD policy: No working with immigration officials to enforce federal laws

Louisville Metro Police officers will not respond to requests to assist U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers in enforcing federal laws under a new policy for the department outlined Friday.

Officers will be dispatched for assistance only when there is a criminal warrant, when a crime has occurred or when there is an emergency situation, according to a news release sent from Mayor Greg Fischer's office.

The new policy comes in the wake of a report that police have been helping federal agents hunt down immigrants living in the country illegally. The Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting published a story saying that Louisville police assisted ICE agents roughly two-dozen times in the first half of the year.

"This policy is a positive step that will make it clear to our officers how they should handle requests for help from federal immigration authorities," Fischer said in the release. "The news report pointed out a gap in our policies, and the Chief acted quickly to address it."

Under the policy, according to the news release, a commanding officer will handle any call from immigration agents, assess "what level of help, if any, is appropriate," and accompany officers to any scene. Those calls will be recorded "to ensure ultimate transparency."

LMPD officers were informed of the new policy Friday morning. MetroSafe staff will be trained on the new procedure, so they know to contact a commanding officer when immigration officials call MetroSafe.

"LMPD enforces local laws, and we leave federal enforcement to federal agencies," LMPD Chief Steve Conrad said. "When people need help, they need to know they can call on us to help them."

The release cautions that police have a duty to handle local crime, so there will be times when LMPD officers help ICE officials in the event that the person is wanted on a criminal arrest warrant, has committed a crime or is a public safety threat.

Metro Councilman David James and other co-sponsors had planned to introduce an ordinance making it law for LMPD to not assist federal immigration agents unless there is a "serious issue involving potential danger to the officers or the public," he said.

They plan to review the policy and discuss whether to move forward with the ordinance, James said Friday.

"Policies that are instituted today can be changed tomorrow," James said. "The law is not that easy."

Hispanic leaders said earlier this month they planned to increase pressure on Fischer to declare Louisville a sanctuary city following the reports of police cooperation with federal agents.

Fischer has routinely assured residents that police do not work with the feds to enforce immigration law.

"If we are truly a compassionate community then we have to stand up and say we're a sanctuary community," immigration attorney Daniel Alvarez said last week. "If not, you're going to have situations, for instance, where domestic violence victims are not going to call the police for assistance because they fear they'll get deported."

The concern was echoed by James, who added that in order for a police department anywhere to be effective, there has to be trust from all members of the community.

In a video posted to the department's Facebook page Friday, several LMPD officers say they don't ask about immigration status when a crime is reported, encouraging residents to call if they witness a crime or have information about regarding a crime.

"We are a city of immigrants," police spokesman Vadim Dale said in the video. "... The diversity of Louisville is what makes it such a great place to live."