DARLINGTON – At the Darlington Police Commission annual report meeting Tuesday, March 14 a discussion was held concerning the Hispanic population that reside in the Darlington area.
Darlington Police Chief Jason King and Sergeant Tony Ruesga told the committee how they are handling the situation and asked the committee if they were going in the direction that they wanted.
King said what we have, with the new President of the United States, is a lot of conversation of what we should do with the immigrants. King said, “ I’ve had people tell us we should be rounding them all up and shipping them back to Mexico. But, we’ve also had people who say, no, you should ignore them and provide sanctuary to them. We have two extremes and the police department is right in the middle of this national and now local debate over what should be done with immigrants.”
King continued, “What we have done for the last fifteen years, as immigrants coming into our community is – if they commit a violation of law, they are arrested or cited like anybody else. If it’s a criminal offense they are taken to the Lafayette County Sheriff’s office. ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) is contacted and told we have someone who is not legal, in our custody and what the crime is. ICE then makes the decision on whether or not they want that person detained. That’s how it works. ICE makes the decision, we have no control over that.”
On criminal offenses, ICE will put a detention hold on an individual and then transport them to a prison (set up just for this situation) then go to court and are charged with violating our immigration laws. A court date is set up for the charged to answer the charges and then they’re released. According to King, mostly they don’t come back for their court date, then an immigration warrant is issued.
If someone has an immigration warrant (known as an administration warrant) on them and they come back to Darlington, the police can’t make an arrest based on that warrant. King said, “The system is a little screwy. I’ll admit that.” Ruesga said, “I had someone stopped and he wasn’t a very nice person. He had an immigrant warrant. So I called the number that ICE gave us. They said to me, ‘Do you have a criminal offense that you can arrest them for?’ I said no, he was speeding. They said, ‘Well, then let them go.’”
King said, “Some people blame us for that. They think we should put them all on Lamers buses and take a day trip to Mexico. It doesn’t work like that. They get mad at us and they should get mad at the Federal government.”
Are we a Sanctuary City? According to King – no, a Sanctuary City does everything in their power to conceal and shelter people who are in the United States illegally. In Darlington if they are speeding, they get a ticket and then released, just like anybody would be. That is not a criminal offense.
King said, “I feel that we land in the middle, we’re not a sanctuary city and we’re not going to round them up. Regarding rounding them up, I get a lot of grief for that. I have no desire to do that, we don’t have the resources to do that and I don’t think we should do that. Plus, I don’t want to tear apart families and ship people to wherever it is they want us to ship them. That’s my personal feeling. Now if the law changes and they tell us we have to do that, we’ll revisit it at that point.”
There was discussion about the Hispanic community being worried about the current political climate with the threats the Trump administration has made. The fear is thick right now. Many families have chosen a guardian for their children in case the parents are taken away. That way the children can stay in the United States. Also, many families have a bag pre-pack in case immigration officials come to their door. The police department tried to calm the fears of the immigrant population, by speaking with the leaders, sending out newsletters, post notices on the doors of Hispanic businesses, etc.
Addressing the committee King asked if the they way we’re doing things is the way this committee wants us to continue doing things going forward. Committee member, Brian Bennet said, “I think you’re on the right track. I don’t think local police departments ought to be doing the job of the Federal government. If that’s what the Fed’s want to do (sending back illegal immigrants), then they should come here and do that.” The rest of the committee (that was in attendance) agreed. King stated he would like to have a community or town hall meeting and discussion at some time in the future.
2016 Annual Report
Chief King presented the 2016 Police Department Annual Report. The report listed the 3,049 calls that the department dealt with. The highest number of incidents are listed in order: Assist ambulance – 238; assist Lafayette County Sheriff’s department – 224; open door – 160; assist resident – 153; information case – 127; lock-out vehicle – 112; check welfare – 105 and traffic warnings – 112.
There were 4 burglaries in Darlington in 2016, one at US Cellular and one at each of the car washes and one miscellaneous burglary. King stated that all four have been solved.
Seven arrested for operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated. According to King six out of the seven were called into 911. Only one arrest was generated by an officer. The other six were people that were drunk and other motors called in to report them. The average blood alcohol level of the seven arrested was at .22 (the legal limit in Wisconsin is .08), so this was nearly three times the legal limit.
In other business: The committee had “no problem” with the department hosting a carry concealed weapon class.