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Durango police chief extends olive branch to immigrant community

Chief Bob Brammer says officers don’t ask about immigration status when interacting with public

The Durango Police Department does not target undocumented immigrants during its regular law enforcement duties “unless extreme circumstances exist,” DPD Chief Bob Brammer said this week in a prepared a statement.

The statement was issued Tuesday, one day ahead of National Hispanic Heritage Month, which started Wednesday and lasts through Oct. 15.

The statement is intended to be an olive branch extended to subcommunities of the greater Durango area that could be wary of interactions with police because of their immigration status, Brammer said.

Brammer told The Durango Herald that it doesn’t matter if immigrants are documented or undocumented, if they are the victim of a crime they will be treated as a victim and as a resident of the Durango community. He said he considers the statement a first step in crafting a fruitful conversation that leads to greater trust and understanding of the police department’s priorities within the community.

“We want people to have trust in us, to know that we are absolutely looking out for public safety and we’re looking out to serve and protect and to care for our community,” he said. “The only way we’re going to be able to do that is through relationships and relationship-building. And we’re hoping that people have that confidence and that trust in us to be able to come to us so that we can advocate for them.”

Brammer said many residents are concerned about the role the police department plays in immigration enforcement and its relationship with federal entities tasked with overseeing such enforcement. Further, Brammer said the department does not typically notify federal law enforcement when booking an undocumented immigrant unless that person is involved in serious crimes, such as child sex trafficking.

“As a reminder to the community, the police department would like to clarify that it does not enforce immigration laws,” Brammer said in the statement. “Instead, our mission is to ensure public safety for all community members, regardless of their national origin or immigration status. Generally, an officer of the Durango Police Department will not notify federal immigration officials when booking an arrestee at the jail unless extreme circumstances exist, such as child sex trafficking, other exploitive activities, or very serious criminal acts for example.”

Brammer said the department’s officers don’t enforce federal law and do not have the authority to enforce immigration law. He also said the department wants people to feel comfortable contacting local law enforcement in case of an emergency and does not want people to be dissuaded from doing so for fear of deportation.

“I think there’s always been a misconception that local law enforcement assist ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) in enforcing immigration rules, and we don’t because there’s no jurisdictional authority under federal law,” Brammer told the Herald. “We made those statements in the past. We don’t even ask that question when our officers are contacting people. It’s just something that we don’t do. I have been working in a pretty close relationship collaboration with Los Compañeros for the last couple years because he (Matt Karkut, executive director) was actually one of the drivers of that initial conversation.”

Brammer said he and Karkut with Compañeros Four Corners Immigrant Resource Center worked together to craft the public statement the city released Tuesday on behalf of the Durango Police Department.

Compañeros is a grassroots, nonprofit immigrants rights organization dedicated to empowering immigrants through education, community organizing and direct bilingual assistance.

National Hispanic Heritage Month was created in 1968 by President Lyndon Johnson, and in 1988, President Ronald Reagan expanded it to a 30-day period, according to the government website about the observation.