The recent introduction of Painesville Police Department Policy 413 has left many wondering what Chief Powalie hopes to gain by involving his department with enforcement of federal immigration laws.

At a public meeting on March 15 at Perry Library, Chief Powalie said his department would not initiate contact with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) when encountering undocumented immigrants. Policy 413 says the opposite.

So what has changed?  Has Painesville seen increases in gang activity or violent crimes in immigrant communities? Public statements by Chief Powalie indicate no such trend.

Appendix D of a study titled “The Role of Local Police: Striking a Balance Between Immigration Enforcement & Civil Liberties,” released in 2009 by The Police Foundation states that crime rates historically decrease significantly during times immigration rates are highest.

If immigrant neighborhoods in Painesville have lower rates of violent crime, why would Painesville Police need a policy targeting them?

It seems more than a coincidence that the Painesville policy is being implemented while President Trump is attempting to force cities to act as agents for ICE. Many cities have refused because they feel this would be a violation of civil liberties and enforcing federal immigration law is the job of federal agents.

“As police agencies move away from their core role of ensuring public safety,” the study says, “and begin taking on civil immigration enforcement activities, the perception immigrants have of the role of police moves from protection to arrest and deportation, thereby jeopardizing local law enforcement’s ability to gain the trust and cooperation of immigrant communities.”

Determining reasonable suspicion, as outlined in Policy 413, is too subjective. It also has no policies or procedures for monitoring racial profiling or abuse of authority, as recommended in the study. Because it does not require conviction, it could easily result in non-violent parents being separated from their children.

It is not Chief Powalie’s fault that Congress has failed to address our broken immigration laws, but there is little to be gained from Policy 413 and it should be rescinded.

Brian Rice and Carole Maldonado are community activists