The tide of the 2016 election has brought with it changes and new faces for Pinal County, and amid the frothy wash a new sheriff will stroll into town, Republican Mark Lamb.
When Lamb, who defeated Democrat Kaye Dickson in the November election, takes office in January he will face a national discourse on police brutality and discrimination. For the state of Arizona, however, this discourse is shaded by one of Arizona’s most controversial laws — Senate Bill 1070.
Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich, under pressure from a lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union and other civil rights organizations, issued an opinion attempting to establish a non-discriminatory enforcement standard for the law, which has already in part been overturned by the Supreme Court. The opinion was part of a lawsuit settlement agreement.
The Attorney General’s opinion handed down on Sept. 15 states, “Officers shall protect the civil rights, privileges and immunities of all persons. Officers shall not prolong a stop, detention or arrest solely for the purpose of verifying immigration status… Officers shall not contact, stop, detain, or arrest an individual based on race, color, or national origin expect when it is part of a suspect description linking that individual to a particular unlawful incident.”
Lamb admitted to not knowing much about the AG’s opinion, though he does believe it’s necessary to establish a solid interpretation of the law. Lamb said during his time as a patrolman he had developed a standard he plans to apply to this new evaluation of SB1070.
“I want to set a baseline of probable cause,” Lamb said. “It’s about the vehicle and what it was doing. It’s not about who was in the car. On patrol I had the same questions to whoever I was dealing with.”
Lamb also feels Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio will help him establish that standard, despite Arpaio’s loss to Democrat Paul Penzone and his pending indictment for alleged discrimination directly associated with his interpretations of SB1070.
“I‘ve communicated with Sheriff Joe [Arpaio], and we want to sit down and come up with ideas to start setting that baseline,” Lamb said.
Maricopa Police Department spokesman Ricardo Alvarado doesn’t see the new opinion altering much for his department. Alvarado is proud his department has no documented allegations of discrimination, a fact that could be a result of the department’s already-established high standard of “reasonable suspicion.”
“The new opinion is not going to change how we operate,” Alvarado said. “We still have to determine if a crime has been committed to ask for documentation.”
When asked about MPD’s interpretation of “reasonable suspicion,” Alvarado said it is just as the law prescribes. If someone presents valid federal- or state-issued photo identification the department will presume that person to be lawfully present in the United States. If an individual fails to provide valid photo ID, officers may attempt to determine immigration status using the Immigration and Customs Enforcements database.
Alvarado said it has always been department policy to keep most stops and temporary detainments to around 20 minutes and Maricopa officers will not prolong a stop or detainment to determine immigration status.
In 2010, Arizona passed the “Show Me Your Papers” law or SB1070. Officially titled Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act, the controversial measure aimed at deterring undocumented immigration altered state and local law enforcement policies on the determination of an individual’s immigration status. According to opponents of the law, the new policies created by SB1070 establish avenues for discrimination and civil rights violations.
The ACLU argued the language of the law created a capacity for the unlawful detention of anyone law enforcement suspects of being an immigrant, which included citizens or resident aliens who simply appear to be immigrants. SB1070 provided law enforcement with what some argue to be a subjective standard of “reasonable suspicion” when determining the immigration status of anyone suspected of being an immigrant.
“We have succeeded by keeping the key provisions of SB1070 in place,” Brnovich said at the time. “Our goal while negotiating this settlement was to find a common sense solution that protects Arizona taxpayers while helping our great state move forward.”
This story appears in the December issue of InMaricopa.