State police should cooperate with ICE
Except for her family and friends, perhaps nobody was happier than I to see then-Captain Ann Assumpico appointed head of the Rhode Island State Police (RISP). While there were many qualified candidates, promoting a stellar candidate and role model like her to the top spot encourages more women to seek careers in law enforcement. I must, however, demure with her recent pronouncement that the RISP is not ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement). Presumably, such successful efforts like reporting suspected illegal immigrants where there is probable cause as per the 2010 case of Estrada vs. Rhode Island involving a state police officer will no longer be standard procedure. This lack of cooperation is wrong.
“Silo” enforcement has been a scourge of police officers/agents for a very long time. Certainly, there are reasonable exceptions to cooperative efforts among police departments. Mob guys would sometimes be tipped off by errant police on the “pad”. My friend John Partington, who headed the first federal witness protection program, had to be discreet about whom he could trust as he transported witnesses and their families through a maze of jurisdictions where he had no personal knowledge of the local constables on patrol (cops). Yet, in the majority of cases interdepartmental cooperation is vital to effective law enforcement.
During the mid-80’s as Attorney General I met weekly with the then-United States Attorney, Lincoln Almond, and representatives of the FBI, the DEA headed by the brilliant Robert Stutman, AFT, RISP, and the affected local police departments. We strategized on the most effective way to combat crime. The Columbian Drug cartel had moved to Central Falls from Miami and brought street crime revolving around drugs. All things being equal re: the merits of a state or federal prosecution, we would opt to go federally if a weapon was used since federal law had a sentence enhancement of 5 years. Efforts to secure stricter sentences moved to other areas as well. Public corruption in Rhode Island, when prosecuted by the state, often resulted in a slap on the wrist since the “fall from power” was regarded as a “harsh” punishment so the miscreant served no jail time. By exploring the use of the Hobbs Act for corrupt activities, the cases went federal and would result in a jail sentence. When a particularly difficult case under state law involving the murder of a prisoner by an ACI guard the correctional officer was criminally convicted under the federal civil rights statute.
RISP should not seem to be “dissing” ICE which its present posture does. Such cooperation also raises issues that should be discussed as public policy. If, for example, in a criminal prosecution a local police department or RISP turned an illegal immigrant witness to a crime over to the feds, the person here illegally would probably not come forward. Immigration law needs to carve out a deportation exception. Similarly, as in the case of a recent mother who availed herself of many years of appeal, that process certainly opens the debate as to whether somebody who "ages" a case, even if not here illegally, should enjoy the fruits of an argument that they have been here a long time.
So, following the law and respecting the co-protectors of the public is the step in the right direction — not walking away from the challenge. Colonel Assumpico (Governor Raimondo?) should reconsider.
Arlene Violet is an attorney and former Rhode Island Attorney General.