A Virginia police officer has been “relieved of all law enforcement duties” pending an investigation after he turned over a driver to immigration officials for an administrative violation, police said Tuesday.
The officer was handling a “traffic accident” on Sept. 21 when he noticed one of the drivers did not have a state driver’s license, Fairfax County Police Chief Edwin C. Roessler Jr. said. When the officer looked the driver’s information up, he found out the individual was wanted by the Immigration and Customers Enforcement Agency (ICE) on a warrant for failing to show up to a deportation hearing, the chief said in a statement.
The officer contacted an ICE agent, detained the driver and then turned over custody to the agent who responded to the scene.
“As a matter of full transparency to our community — our police officer violated our longstanding policy and deprived a person of their freedom, which is unacceptable,” the chief said.
The police department has disallowed its officers to take individuals into custody based only on an immigration law violation since 2007. The chief also said officers receive training that “reinforces to our personnel that we do not enforce nor detain for administrative warrants and we have no authority to enforce federal law.”
The driver taken into custody by the officer late September was released after three hours and given an ankle monitor, the chief said.
“Our county is one of the most diverse counties in the nation and no one should have the perception that (Fairfax County Police Department) is acting as a civil immigration agent for ICE,” Roessler added.
“This matter damages our reputation and the longstanding policy that I have stated many times that our officers shall not act as immigration agents.”
The chief said he has called for an internal investigation during which time, the officer’s law enforcement duties have been relieved.