Community-Oriented Policing: Stalking Horse for Illegal Immigration?

By Stephen Steinlight on August 18, 2009

The theory and practice of community-oriented policing, its history, political vicissitudes and ascendancy are familiar territory for me from past experience. Especially vivid are recollections shared by and with colleagues of advocating its adoption in precincts or police headquarters with the chief, local commanders, detectives, and patrolmen leaning far back in their chairs, maximizing the physical and psychic distance between us; arms crossed over chests like body armor; heads down, faces impassive. My education was mentored by Patrick Murphy, former Commissioner of Police of New York City and the first President of the Police Foundation. Even his coaching could take me just so far in the early innings.

This came with the turf as Vice President for Program at the National Conference of Christians and Jews. Though NCCJ had a reputation as a soft "do-gooder" organization, not all its agenda fit the stereotype, none less than sponsoring and promulgating this controversial initiative. NCCJ supported the pioneering research done chiefly by Louis A. Radelet, professor in the School of Criminal Justice at Michigan State University in East Lansing. A visionary, he first conceptualized a new model for policing in the 1950s. Radelet's works are classics in the field and the equivalent of field manuals, among them The Police and the Community and Police and Community Relations: A Source Book. From 1955-1969, NCCJ and Michigan State collaborated at the National Institute of Police and Community Relations at MSU.

Radelet's theory didn't become practice because he scored a knockout in a debate. He never laid a glove on the likes of Chief Frank Rizzo of Philadelphia or Chief Darryl Gates of LA. Rather, police culture's ingrained resistance to outsiders – certainly social researchers – ended because of desperation and public fury. Traditional policing didn't respond well to the social crises battering 1960s America. Police faced a sharply rising crime rate, civil rights demonstrations, radicalized racial politics, and the anti-Vietnam War movement. Heavy-handed police tactics were perceived as counterproductive by the public, and they undermined confidence in law enforcement.

Traditional policing was seen to have failed completely during the urban riots in 1967. The part played by police in sparking and mishandling the riot in Newark (which left 26 dead) and Detroit (43 dead) was broadcast in the Report of the National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders, also known as the Kerner Report. In the section on "Patterns of Disorder," which lists precipitating factors in order of priority, cited first among the most volatile factors in the "First List of Intensity" is "police practices." The riots accelerated adoption of community-oriented policing. The Ford Foundation created the Police Foundation in 1970 to undertake research, develop guidelines, and conduct training. That year also saw the creation of the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF) a "national organization of progressive police executives" to promote and expand the new approaches to policing. The concept fully entered the mainstream when the Justice Department established the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) in 1994 – again following major civil unrest, the Watts Riot of 1992. Over the years, it's disbursed some $11.3 billion in training grants.

There's broad consensus community-oriented policing has contributed to reducing crime, improving the quality of life in urban America, easing friction and increasing cooperation between cops and residents (especially inner city minorities), and forestalling civil unrest.

However, something sinister is taking place: community-oriented policing is being hijacked politically. Beginning several years ago and intensifying, a carefully orchestrated, well-financed campaign is transforming it into a Trojan horse for illegal immigration. It's cited as a rationale for normalizing the lives of millions of illegal aliens, and facts are being created on the ground that nullify the distinction between legal and illegal populations. Police complicity in this process is occurring in some of the nation's largest cities – Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, and others. It may prove irreversible as it's congruent with Obama Administration policy of making "comprehensive immigration reform" a fait accompli without legislation. How far this campaign has distorted the mindset of law enforcement is evidenced in a bizarre op-ed written by the police chief of Salt Lake City (more of which later).

The nexus between community-oriented policing and police toleration of illegal immigration dates from the 2004 publication of a policy paper by the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) "Enforcing Immigration Law: The Role of State, Tribal and Local Law Enforcement." It asserts illegal aliens won't help police investigate crimes committed against them or witnessed for fear of deportation. Shorthand for this theory is the "chilling effect."

The IACP paper proceeds from several dubious propositions: (1) police can't address illegal immigration without endangering community-oriented policing; (2) cooperation with ICE causes the chilling effect (this urban legend is unsupported by crime statistics, research by social scientists or police experience; surveys of immigrants reveal language barriers and cultural factors inhibit cooperation, not fear of deportation); and (3) protecting the "civil rights" of illegal aliens is the paramount duty of local police. These assumptions are so embedded in the worldview of those who support or tolerate illegal immigration they must be explicitly unpacked to reveal their absurdity. Notwithstanding the mantra "everyone in the community's safety and rights must be respected," one continually encounters the counter-commonsensical notion that higher priority should be assigned to preventing victimization of illegal aliens than insuring the safety of citizens and legal residents.

Case in point is "sanctuary city" New Haven, and a classic example of IACP’s mentality is the testimony of its former chief of police, Francisco Ortiz, Jr., during hearings in 2008. The hearings were before Connecticut's Freedom of Information Commission concerning a motion by plaintiffs opposed to illegal immigration to force the city to release the names of illegal alien recipients of the "Elm City ID," an ersatz official municipal document intended to normalize the situation of illegal aliens. Initially citing the "chilling effect," the chief then raised the stakes with an enormous, politically motivated leap: of far greater concern, he warned, was the speculative assertion – his hunch as a veteran chief that carried decisive weight with the Commission – that releasing names would subject illegal aliens to violence, even death at the hands of vigilantes in the lawless wilderness of xenophobic, trigger-happy Connecticut. The clairvoyant chief said, "If these names are released, there is no question in my mind it will put individuals' lives in harm's way." This prophecy was seconded by Assistant State Attorney General, Steven Strom, who exhibited his multicultural credentials reeling off the names of dozens of violent, armed, drug-dealing Hispanic gangs in Connecticut but couldn't name a single "white supremacist organization" he'd claimed might harm illegal immigrants. His evidence was angry emails to public officials – constitutionally protected speech – including one from California containing an indirect threat.

New Haven's 15-20,000 illegal aliens likely include members of Mexican or Central American criminal gangs, drug cartels, violent felons sought on warrants in their countries of origin, perhaps even Islamist terrorists awaiting orders to commit enormities. Yet the origins, backgrounds, and intentions of a demographic this large in a city of 124,000 – perhaps 15% of residents – remain unknown to police by choice. Given a broken immigration system, porous borders, gaps between federal immigration authority and local law enforcement, it's almost certain violent felons reside among the illegal population. Yet it's the citizens and legal residents of New Haven who are stigmatized as the main threat to law and order. When protecting illegal aliens becomes the principal focus of local police, cops morph into "civil rights activists" and ACLU lawyers-manqué while politically correct program officers from the Ford Foundation, New Haven's Mayor's Office, or Yale's Legal Clinic indoctrinate police to see citizens and legal residents as the primary suspects. They're dangerous bigots and thus potential vigilantes.

A critical term in this discourse has been deliberately jettisoned: Community. The ultimate sanction for "community" in "community-oriented policing" is social contract theory. The myth of the social contract basic to Western political theory, the foundation of our belief in the primacy of individual rights, posits a compact freely entered into by individuals who choose the cohesive bond of shared citizenship or, extending the ideal to legal residents, who earn membership through compliance with the rule of law. To be part of this stakeholder community – citizens, legal residents, and constitutionally empowered and limited law enforcement – entails reciprocal social, moral, and legal obligations and responsibilities. To stretch "community" to encompass those who reject the bond, who consciously undermine its laws by unlawful entry and commit additional offenses to remain, who steal public benefits from lawful stakeholders and unlawfully take employment, stealing the livelihoods of members while refusing to accept the community's legal authority – is to be complicit in destroying community.

The refusal of cultural relativists, multicultural nihilists, and post-Americans to distinguish between legal and illegal populations expresses total indifference to the polity and rejects the concept of the nation state. They argue that "sanctuary city" is simply a misnomer for a city that extends community-oriented policing to its immigrant population. (See, for instance, "Debunking the Myth of 'Sanctuary Cities': Community Policing Policies Protect American Communities," by open-borders lobbyist Lynn Tramonte, published by the immigration lawyers association's think tank, the Immigration Policy Center.) To Tramonte and her ideological allies, to whom citizenship is a stupid archaism, opposition to sanctuary cities pits "bad politics" against "good policy." Her assumptions may be profoundly wrongheaded, even socially subversive; but her description of a segment of contemporary police culture is undeniably accurate.

The IACP's thesis is now being aggressively disseminated by the Ford Foundation's Police Foundation. The Police Foundation is a creature of the Ford Foundation, billionaire linchpin of the moneyed elitist open-borders coalition that relentlessly promotes illegal immigration, massively increased immigration, sanctuary cities, and amnesty for illegal aliens, and is a chief funder of the National Immigration Forum, principal lobby for open borders immigration in America. Ford also funds a host of ethnic "legal defense" agencies and ethnic/cultural identity organizations such as MALDEF and the National Council of La Raza. The goal of the Ford Foundation is transforming community-oriented policing from the mistress of community building into the handmaiden of its immigration agenda.

The Police Foundation isn't independent or non-political, despite its claims, and it deals with inescapably political issues. It supports Ford's immigration politics, and they're joined at the hip, as evidenced by Ford's predominant role in organizing a Police Foundation conference in Washington, D.C., in August 2008 to propagandize 1,000 police chiefs regarding sanctuary cities. Its main outcome was the publication of its proceedings in May 2009, a political manifesto camouflaged as research, advocating police collaboration with illegal immigration. Dispensing with any appearance of objectivity, every member of the board appointed to organize the conference and every conference presenter is a well-known supporter of open-borders immigration and "comprehensive immigration reform."

The publication has the subtlety of a sledge-hammer driving home a few points: police cooperation with federal immigration authorities subverts community-oriented policing; local police shouldn't enforce unenforceable immigration policy that demands a "comprehensive" solution (amnesty); preventing that solution is a public panicked by 9/11 who’ve reacted like xenophobes to the surge in immigration and shifts in internal migration from rural communities to cities following the failure of S.1639; popular opinion is a Hamiltonian "Great Beast" because the masses are dupes of Lou Dobbs, Glenn Beck, Bill O'Reilly, talk radio, and Republican demagogues seeking an issue; fear is stoked by the misperception immigrants have a higher crime rate than natives; illegal immigration is an inevitable fact of life; don't focus on control but seek to integrate the (illegal) immigrants. Most insidious is a section on "Legal Issues in Local Police Enforcement of Federal Immigration Law" by two NYU professors, that aims to frighten police away from entering 287(g) arrangements by raising the specter of a plenitude of lawsuits over unlawful arrest, imprisonment, and deportation.

The post-Americanism, the notion that opposing illegal immigration is xenophobic, the idea police must protect "undocumented immigrants" from racist haters, the failure to recognize illegal immigration victimizes vulnerable Americans – the whole weird, unbalanced moral perspective Ford's conference implanted – is on display in the above-mentioned op-ed by Salt Lake City Police Chief Chris Burbank: "New immigration law sets dangerous precedent". One hopes the chief's opinions represent only a crude caricature of what he learned at the conference. His lack of political sophistication is evidenced by his belief the Police Foundation is "non-partisan," his failure to acknowledge who bankrolls it, or concede the possibility that Ford's immigration agenda may affect its stance regarding 287(g).

If one wished to satirize political correctness on illegal immigration, one could do no better than transcribe Chief Burbank's inaccurate, offensive, delusional, and morally disgusting piece. He draws analogies between the treatment of illegal aliens in America and Jews subjected to mass murder by the Nazis. He likens ICE officers to the Gestapo. He portrays illegal aliens as a "persecuted minority," not as lawbreakers, and likens them to his community's Mormon pioneer ancestors. He regards protecting American sovereignty as "oppression." He evidently believes he lives in Nazi Germany, not America.

Chief Burbank is a very poor reader of history; more likely, he swallowed whole the many ahistorical, morally repellent comparisons between Nazi Germany and American law enforcement's response to massive illegal immigration offered by the Police Foundation/Ford Foundation program officers. In one passage he writes, "The Nazi propaganda and hatred effort did not begin with imprisonment and genocide. It was instituted subtly, declaring the criminality of those deemed inferior … Co-opting the trusted local constabulary was instrumental in enforcement of those laws."

We won't fixate on the "subtlety" of Mein Kampf, the Nuremberg rallies, Kristallnacht, or even the truth about the "trusted local constabulary" the chief wishes to protect from corrupting co-optation by national authorities. (Germany's "local constabulary" was predominantly Nazi or belonged to Nazi-allied organizations before Hitler became Chancellor. In Ordinary Men, Christopher Browning reveals the infamous "Mobile Killing Units" who murdered some 1.5 million Jews in Nazi-occupied Ukraine were primarily retired police veterans of the "trusted local constabulary.")

However, there's another Nazi analogy – this time a pertinent one – Chief Burbank ought to address, one that played a pivotal role in justifying the whole Nazi program. According to the historian Richard L. Evans, author of the pre-eminent treatment of the Nazi regime in English or any language, the ascent of Nazism and the prerequisite to the unparalleled enormities Nazism ultimately committed was the subversion of constitutional and statutory law. In its place came what is termed "prerogative law": law in name only that reflected nothing more than the leadership's whims. If there is one lesson from Nazi history the chief ought to learn, it is this.

Though the chief seems unaware of the larger ramifications of his actions, by refusing to cooperate with federal authorities he has effectively replaced U.S. law with "Burbank's law," allowing him to enforce only laws he likes. Aping the Nazis, he is establishing "prerogative law" in Salt Lake City.

The chief complains 287(g) intrudes into community-oriented policing and makes his work harder. Apart from the fact such policing is predicated on a definition of community far less elastic than he would have it, complaining the purported "intrusion" makes his job more difficult is his problem alone. His paramount responsibility is protecting the safety of the people of Salt Lake City – illegal aliens included – a job he cannot in good conscience claim he performs if he chooses to remain ignorant of the makeup of the large illegal population.

Finally, the chief has internalized the condescending, elitist, anti-democratic rhetoric he was fed at the conference: "Our Republic is not based on the rule of the majority." (One trusts he's referring to the freedoms guaranteed in the Bill of Rights rather than our electoral system.) His concerns about the "tyranny of the majority" and ensuring the well-being of the "downtrodden or underrepresented" suggest he's come to view lawful residents as an embryonic brutish mob and to regard illegal aliens as a victimized "underrepresented" minority. The notion that illegal aliens are stakeholders in the polity is an extremely radical one. If they are "underrepresented" presumably they should have more representation. Should they be permitted to vote? No question begging!

I now remember with greater fondness those cops who reacted with undisguised hostility when I first spoke about community-oriented policing. "We're not freak'n social workers" was a common response. Chief Burbank is the sum of all their fears. But he's gone light years beyond their worst imaginings. A post-American relativist, radical political activist, would-be-political nihilist philosopher, Holocaust revisionist, and value-free sociologist, he should resign. He lacks the good judgment required to be a police chief. However, he might consider a second career as an advocacy educator teaching any subject at the local community college. He'd flourish where uninformed opinion matters most and expertise counts for little.