Thursday, September 25, 2014

AZMEX I3 25-9-14 School safety

AZMEX I3 25 SEP 2014

Note: Effective measures for actual school safety remain almost non existent. TUSD is a prime example.

Immigration issue delays program to put cops in schools
11 hours ago •
By Darren DaRonco

Class is back in session. But students in Tucson middle and high schools will have to wait a little longer for police in the city's newly restored School Resource Officer program to join them on campus.

The City Council delayed approving an agreement with Tucson Unified and Amphitheater school districts Tuesday night over concerns about officers asking students about their immigration status.

The SRO program was shut down five years ago to cut costs. But a scaled-back version was in the works this year utilizing a nearly $850,000 state grant to create 10-officer program.

That program is now on hold while the city negotiates new agreements with the districts incorporating immigration status provisions.

Councilwoman Regina Romero blasted the city attorney and police chief Tuesday night, accusing them of defying council orders by failing to include a provision in the agreement explicitly forbidding police officers to ask students about their immigration status under any circumstance.

Romero said the council was clear on that point when it voted in July to add school resource officers — which the city didn't have at the time — to a city policy limiting when police can ask anyone about their immigration status.

However, a transcript of the July meeting is less than clear.

While it shows Romero moved to prohibit any questioning of students, she also explains the motion is linked to a November council policy to prohibit any police officers from questioning students without a parent, guardian or attorney present, which is now TPD policy.

Council members were told in both November and July a total prohibition would be illegal.

Police Chief Roberto Villaseñor told Romero again Tuesday that he couldn't order his officers to break a law, regardless of how unpopular it is.

"There were clear statements made that day that we cannot require officers to neglect their lawful duty," Villaseñor said, reminding the council of the July discussion.

"As the chief of police, I'm obligated by charter to provide for public safety and have full control over the Police Department. I do not agree to implement an order that requires me to violate the law. This type of directive requires me to violate the law. And I will not do it," he said.

Romero then grilled Villaseñor on whether or not he was ignoring council direction.

To each accusation, Villaseñor responded he could not violate the law.

City Attorney Mike Rankin said Tucson Police Department's new rules regarding how officers questioned juveniles on immigration status applied to school resource officers as well.

In addition to requiring a parent, guardian or attorney be present, Rankin said TPD rules restrict school resource officers even further since they can only inquire about a student's immigration status if it is directly relevant to an investigation — something, Rankin said would be unlikely to occur with a school resource officer.

Councilwoman Karin Uhlich eventually made a motion to draft a new agreement with the schools that reflects current TPD rules.

Romero felt it didn't go far enough and voted against it.

"A parent should not stay at home or go to work and have any doubt in their mind that their child is going to get deported when they go to school," Romero said. "This questioning should never happen at schools."

The motion passed 6-1.

Villaseñor said he wasn't trying to subvert the council's will.

"I wholeheartedly support the position of mayor and council and the necessity of removing local law enforcement from federal immigration enforcement," he said. "However, I am bound by the restrictions of the laws that were passed under SB 1070 and the provision that was taken all the way to the Supreme Court and upheld. It's the system I work under."

The agreements will now have to be rewritten and approved by the respective school board before they take effect.

TUSD and Amphitheater received grants from the Arizona Department of Education to fund school resource officers this year.

TUSD will receive $736,920, which will pay for eight officers, and Amphitheater will get $110,000 for one officer. A sergeant will also be appointed to coordinate the school resource officers.


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