ROELAND PARK, KS (KCTV) -- Over the last several months, Roeland Park officials asked police to look at the policies regarding its relationship with immigration and customs enforcement agency.
Roeland Park Mayor Mike Kelly says it was a proactive move.
“We want to make sure we’re not putting ourselves into any legal jeopardy based on our police practices, based on what’s going on nationally,” Kelly said.
The details of the police policy were outlined, but Kelly is not sure why people thought they were taking a vote.
“I don’t know where people got the idea that we were taking a vote Monday night, but that was not considered. There was no ordinance that was put forward to the council,” Kelly said.
Instead, the council heard about a directive made by Police Chief John Morris. In the policy, Morris says his officers do not enforce federal immigration law.
Officers need approval from the police chief if they want to take any action involving ICE and officers will not detain someone only for ICE custody.
“We also want to make sure we have the safest community that we can and that includes making sure that we build that bond of trust between the police department and our residents,” Kelly said.
There wasn’t a vote Monday night. This isn’t an official ordinance change but one senate candidate says that doesn’t matter.
“If they are not going to assist the federal government in removing dangerous illegal aliens for the streets of our country, then they should not be entitled to any federal funds,” Kris Kobach, Candidate for U.S. Senate, said.
Kobach took up his familiar mantle of a hard-line stance on immigration less than a day after the discussion in Roeland Park. Kobach says Roeland Park is now a sanctuary city.
“The chief has sole authority to override this policy, but this is clearly a sanctuary policy,” Kobach said.
KCTV5 News asked Kelly about what Kobach had to say. Kelly said in part, despite the political rhetoric, the RPPD will continue to, “Keep people safe. The immigration issue cannot be solved at the municipal level.”
As previously stated, at our October 7, 2019 city council meeting, we informed our residents and guests about how the Roeland Park Police Department interacts with other law enforcement agencies. These policies are not new. As always, the Roeland Park Police Department shall cooperate with ICE when required to do so by statute, ordinance, federal law, court order, or upon a valid criminal warrant or specific threat to public safety. While there has been misrepresentation and political rhetoric about this, the Roeland Park Police Department will continue to focus on keeping our residents and community safe.
While we support the efforts of all law enforcement agencies that serve and protect individuals from harm due to criminal activity, the Roeland Park Police Department is a local municipal police agency that enforces local ordinances, traffic regulations and criminal laws. It does not enforce federal immigration laws. Therefore, the Roeland Park Police Department does not stop, question or interrogate any individual solely to determine nationality or citizenship status. No person is arrested or incarcerated in Roeland Park based solely on immigration status.
If the Roeland Park Police Department is contacted by ICE or any other Federal law enforcement officer regarding the criminal activity of someone who may or may not be legally present in the United States, but no official criminal warrant has been issued, the Chief of Police or a supervisor will consider, among other things, the alleged criminal conduct, the amount of evidence the immigration official has against such person, the impact on public safety, the impact to the individual or other affected parties and the risk that communication will impact future cooperation with police by immigrant communities.
We want people to understand that while immigration enforcement remains a difficult topic, and one that cannot be solved at the municipal level, Roeland Park will focus its time and resources on doing what it does best: keeping our residents, our streets, our parks, and our homes safe. We are lucky our police officers have chosen to serve us in that capacity.
Roeland Park and its Governing Body stand firmly behind our police force. Our Police Department consistently receives high praise from our citizens, and has worked hard to ensure that crime in Roeland Park is at a ten-year low. We are proud and grateful for their efforts.
KCTV5 News reached out to several Latino community groups in town to hear what they think. So far, none of them returned our calls.