Mayor: Decatur not a ‘sanctuary city;’ new police ICE policy under review

It states that, because immigration enforcement is primarily the responsibility of the federal government’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, Decatur police should only help the government in three cases.

Posted: Sep 30, 2019 1:31 PM
Updated: Oct 2, 2019 9:12 AM

A Decatur Police Department rule approved by Chief Nate Allen is getting blowback from Mayor Tab Bowling – and an apparent change is coming.

At issue is a police department policy approved by Allen on Sept. 25.

It states that, because immigration enforcement is primarily the responsibility of the federal government’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, Decatur police should only help the government in three cases.

They include if a person is:

* Engaged in or is suspected of terrorism or espionage;

* Reasonably suspected of participating in criminal activities as defined by State Statute or city ordinance. If the subject is suspected of being an undocumented alien, ICE may be contacted with approval from a Division Commander or the Chief of Police;

* Classified as previously deported felons.

Approval to participate can only come from a division commander or police chief.

On Sunday, Bowling said he became aware of the policy after its release. He took to Facebook to share his thoughts in a post that he deleted and replaced with an official city statement early Monday afternoon. (You can see the full deleted post in the photos above):

“... Decatur will not be a Sanctuary City. I will ask Chief Allen to rescind his policy and I am confident our City Council will stand in favor of my statement. … That is not going to be the case in Decatur, Alabama. We will obey, enforce and support the laws, current and future.

“A decision of this nature should always come to the Office of the Mayor before implementing. It is definitely a reflection on my performance and decision making to which I was not involved.”

About 9:45 a.m. Monday, the Decatur Police Department issued a statement on the policy and included a copy of it.

“We’re proud of the service we provide to our residents. We’re in the business of saving lives, helping the hurt, and comforting the scared. We’ll leave the governing decisions to those best versed to make them,” Allen said in the press release.

About three hours later, the city of Decatur issued this statement:

“... the Mayor’s Office, Legal Department, and Police Department are working to clarify the policy to correct some misunderstandings or vagueness and to ensure compliance with state and federal requirements.

“The changes should be made quickly and will be released as soon as complete.

“It is our desire in the City to fully comply with the letter and spirit of federal and state laws, as we work together to protect the people of the City of Decatur.”

Chief Allen agreed to speak with WAAY 31 on camera Monday morning. However, several hours later, he cancelled.

The mayor also told us he couldn't go on camera. We then spoke with City Council Member Chuck Ard by phone, who tells us Chief Allen is not trying to make Decatur a sanctuary city, he's following guidelines and correct orders.

Among the procedures in the directive, assisting ICE in enforcing civil immigration laws is not permitted unless approved by the chief of police and individuals may not be detained or arrested solely for a suspected violation of immigration law.

The police department is in the process of being accredited by the commission on accreditation for law enforcement agencies, or CALEA. The directive issued by the police chief says the policy was carefully written and reviewed by the organization.

We reached out to CALEA multiple times on Monday to learn if it has an immigration policy and if so, what it is. We are waiting to hear back.

WAAY 31 spoke with one person who said having a set policy might be good for the city.

"Everybody deserves a chance, but I think it is necessary to set some standards, because sometimes things can get a bit overheated and overcrowded," said Sabrina Long, who lives in Decatur.

The city says an updated statement will come out Tuesday.

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