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Hartford Immigrant Rights Group Criticizes Police

MARK SPENCER

November 13, 2009

HARTFORD - Some city police officers are ignoring an ordinance passed last year by the city council that limits when they can ask about a person's immigration status, according to immigrant rights activists.

Speaking Thursday night at the 34th annual Community Congress sponsored by Hartford Areas Rally Together, Arlene Angel said several incidents have been reported in recent months in which officers threatened to contact federal immigration officials because of minor incidents, such as improper vehicle registration.

Angel, a member of HART and the Hartford Immigrant Rights Coalition, said the incidents have spread fear in the community.

"In order to feel comfortable reporting crimes to the police in Hartford, immigrant residents need to be confident that officers will follow the law that was passed unanimously by our city council and signed by our mayor," Angel said in a statement in Spanish that was translated on a screen at the Learning Corridor's Theater for the Performing Arts.

Police Chief Daryl K. Roberts, who had been invited to the meeting, said the policy has been covered in training and highlighted in two memos to officers. The most recent one, issued Nov. 6, says officers "shall not question victims or witnesses about immigration status."

If the individual is a suspect in a criminal investigation, a supervisor will decide if federal immigration officials should be contacted, Roberts said.

Residents should file complaints with the department if an officer has not followed the policy, he said.

"I will not tolerate police misconduct on any level," Roberts said.

The council unanimously passed the ordinance in August 2008, in part to encourage undocumented immigrants to report crimes.

As he was leaving Tuesday's meeting, Roberts said he was surprised when he was handed a copy of Angel's statement. "I don't think this was the forum for a question like this," Roberts said. "It was a little aggressive."

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
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