EDITOR’S NOTE: In this first installment of what we hope will be an ongoing series of interviews with the Richmond Police Department, The Pulse sat down with Chief Chris Magnus to discuss issues ranging from immigration enforcement to gun control policy to the Christopher Dorner incident. The intention of the series is to improve police and community relations, by fostering an open and honest dialogue.
Richmond Pulse: The Pulse recently became aware of an undocumented family that was scammed — they lost a great deal of money and are now fearful of identify theft. Are there any legal avenues open to undocumented families like this one who are victims of a crime but don’t feel they can report it to the authorities, for fear of being deported?
Chief Magnus: Our policy as a community and as a police department is that we don’t make inquiries regarding whether someone is documented as a citizen or not. We take criminal complaints from people, regardless of their immigration status. That applies to a whole range of things, whether it be domestic violence, fraud, battery of different kinds [or] robbery.
I think it’s pretty safe to say that the majority of undocumented residents of Richmond are still going to be scared about making a police report. There are people who have spread untrue rumors that just by coming down to the police department you’re going to be fingerprinted, locked up and deported. Unfortunately, when those rumors start circulating through what’s already a very vulnerable community, it’s very hard to counter that kind of rumor. We’ve said in a lot of different settings and gatherings that have been held that that’s not what’s going to happen, and our elected officials have said that as well, but it’s still hard to counter that perception. We don’t work with ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) other than we do some work with the customs part of ICE around gang enforcement. It’s a very limited level of cooperation but in terms of the immigration piece we have no relationship with ICE. That said, we have no control over whether ICE comes into Richmond and does enforcement. But we don’t cooperate with them, and even if they do pick up folks in Richmond or surrounding communities we don’t house them here, we don’t hold people on ICE detainers. That’s just not part of how we work.
Now I’d certainly be willing to follow up and I have staff that would be willing to work with any individual or family that experienced what you’re describing so that we could be as helpful to them as possible in terms of dealing with this as a fraud complaint. We’d be happy to have detectives sit down and evaluate what the circumstances of the case were and make as sound a judgment as we could about whether it’s a criminal or a civil matter. If it’s a civil matter they may still be able to get assistance through, for example, legal aid. Or, there are other attorneys that work with immigrant families around some of these issues but we’d be more than willing to do follow up with any family that was in a circumstance like that and make a case-by-case evaluation.
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