Marchers gather at Civic Center Plaza during a May Day demonstration this year. The Police Commission will vote today on revised sanctuary policies for The City. (Jessica Christian/S.F. Examiner)

SFPD reiterates department’s support of sanctuary policies in changed language

San Francisco Police Chief William Scott is expected to publicly reiterate his commitment to The City’s sanctuary laws tonight before the Police Commission, which is set to vote on a revised policy to clarify the department’s stance on such laws.

The revised policy and statement from the chief come after a number of recent events have once again raised concerns about how closely local police are following sanctuary laws, including the case of an undocumented man who is set to receive $190,000 from The City after police notified federal authorities of his whereabouts.

Meanwhile, last week the House of Representatives passed an immigration law named after Kathryn Steinle, a San Francisco woman who died after she was struck by a ricocheted bullet fired by Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez, an undocumented Mexican citizen who illegally re-entered the country before the shooting.

“Kate’s Law,” which still has to pass in the Senate, will increase penalties for undocumented immigrants who attempt to re-enter the U.S.

“I would like the department, mainly the chief, to make a statement to the public … about the department’s commitment to the sanctuary ordinance,” said Police Commissioner Bill Hing. “Given the Trump administration’s enforcement, it’s important to residents of The City to hear that we [will not aid in that effort].”

Scott could not be reached for comment on whether he plans to make such a statement, but Hing said he expects the chief to speak on the matter.

The San Francisco Police Officers’ Association had no comment on the proposed changes, according to Nathan Ballard, a POA representative.

But the planned changes to the department’s general orders, meant to ensure police live up to their obligations under federal law and local ordinances, makes it clear where the department stands on the issue.

According to the new language, department policies “generally prohibit the use of city resources to assist in the enforcement of federal immigration laws, except as required by federal or state law.”

The revised policy continues, “Members shall not cooperate with or assist ICE/CBP [Immigration and Customs Enforcement/Customs and Border Protection] in any investigation, detention, or arrest procedures, public or clandestine, where in any such instance the purpose is enforcing federal immigration law.”

The language also reiterates that officers are never to ask about immigration status or ask for immigration-related documents.

“Members shall not inquire into an individual’s immigration status,” states some of the new language, adding that officers shall not “require individuals to produce any document to prove their immigration status.”

The other area of changes center on warrants and cooperating with the Sheriff’s Department. Police officers are only to act on criminal warrants, not civil detainers issued by ICE, which often have no court order attached to them.

The new policy language comes more than a year after city leaders reached a deal that reconciled inconsistent parts of The City’s sanctuary laws that pertained to when the Sheriff’s Department will communicate with immigration officials. The City ordinance allows the sheriff to communicate with immigration officials only regarding undocumented inmates who have violent convictions.

The plan to alter the department’s policy comes after several recent cases of police reportedly violating already existing city laws that bar them from cooperating with immigration officials.

Last week, the case of Pedro Figueroa-Zarceno, 33, reemerged when a proposed settlement of $190,000 was introduced to the Board of Supervisors. Figueroa-Zarceno sued The City on Jan. 17 for violating its sanctuary city policies when officers allegedly cooperated with immigration officials.

Figueroa-Zarceno, an undocumented immigrant and native of El Salvador, went to Southern Station at 1251 Third St. in Mission Bay in December 2015 and reported that his car had been stolen. Officers called immigration officials, who arrested him outside of the station.

The second recent case happened in May when an undercover officer was caught on video threatening men in UN Plaza that he would report them to immigration authorities. Officer Joshua Fry is now under investigation.
The Police Commission meets today at 5:30 p.m. in City Hall.

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