A Fairfax County police officer has been restored to full duty after being suspended for going against orders and turning a driver involved in a traffic accident over to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
Though the investigation into the matter is ongoing, Chief Edwin C. Roessler Jr. said in a statement that he canceled the suspension because of a “procedural policy recommendation.” Just a day earlier, he berated the officer in a statement on Tuesday.
“Our county is one of the most diverse counties in the nation and no one should have the perception that FCPD is acting as a civil immigration agent for ICE,” Roessler said. “This matter damages our reputation and the longstanding policy that I have stated many times that our officers shall not act as immigration agents.”
On Wednesday, Roessler changed his tone.
“We have one of the best police forces in the U.S., and I have confidence that our officer will represent us well throughout his career,” the statement said.
The officer has yet to be publicly named. The incident occurred when the officer responded to a Sept. 21 accident in Alexandria in Fairfax County, Va. The officer found one of the drivers did not have a Virginia license, so he checked the man’s DMV record. He received a notification from ICE saying the man was wanted for failing to appear for a deportation hearing — an administrative violation.
Administrative warrants differ from judicial warrants. Judicial warrants are signed by a judge and indicate that there has been due process backed by probable cause. Administrative warrants are signed only by ICE agents and does not pass constitutional requirements.
The officer contacted the ICE agent listed on the administrative warrant. He then issued a summons to the driver for not having a driver’s license, detained him and turned him over to ICE.
A general order from the Fairfax County Police Department prohibits the officers from confirming administrative warrants of removal for individuals who are not in custody or being arrested.
Officers also are not supposed to enforce administrative warrants or detain someone based on these types of warrants. They do not hold the authority to enforce federal law.
The driver was released hours later and was ordered to wear an ankle monitor.
Local police departments around the country have declared themselves “sanctuary cities” and have worked to limit the power of ICE in the areas. In New Jersey, a state directive bans searching or detaining immigrants at the request of ICE, except in the instance of serious crimes or final deportation orders.