STOCKTON -- Amid threats to defund sanctuary cities, the United States Department of Justice is turning its attention to Stockton as the city seeks help to get violent crime under control.
Thursday the DOJ sent Stockton Police Chief Eric Jones a letter informing him the department is in the running for the Public Safety Partnership. Police chiefs in San Bernardino, Albuquerque, NM, and the Police Commissioner of Baltimore received the same letter.
However, to get the money, each department has to answer questions demonstrating cooperation with immigration authorities by August 18. However, in Stockton’s case, the answer to the questions is “not applicable,” according to Jones.
Jones said he first heard Stockton was being considered for the grant Thursday morning when reporters started calling him. He then contacted the Department of Justice and they forwarded him the letter and news release to which journalists were referring. The first line of the news release stated that the PSP grant is tied to immigration enforcement compliance:
“The Department of Justice today announced that, in order to be selected for participation in the Department’s Public Safety Partnership (PSP) program, local jurisdictions must show a commitment to reducing crime stemming from illegal immigration.”
The release went on to include a quote from Attorney General Jeff Sessions, “By forcing police to go into more dangerous situations to re-arrest the same criminals, these policies endanger law enforcement officers more than anyone. The Department of Justice is committed to supporting our law enforcement at every level, and that’s why we're asking 'sanctuary' jurisdictions to stop making their jobs harder.'"
Stockton is not a declared sanctuary city. However Jones says his department does not act as an arm of Immigration Enforcement. In a statement regarding the DOJ letter, Stockton Mayor Michael Tubbs affirmed Jones' characterization of the department saying in part, “Our police will continue the department policy to not stop, question, detain or place an immigration hold on an individual solely on the grounds that he or she may be a deportable alien. This practice is consistent with law enforcement policy throughout the United States.”
Jones told FOX40 he welcomes partnerships in combating crime, and would like to receive PSP funds, however he regrets that it appears politics is being tied to crime prevention funding.
“It’s unfortunate something becomes politicized, we need to be a professional law enforcement agency working with others toward a common goal reducing violent crime," said Jones.
Jones said PD previously expressed interest in the PSP program. In the letter to police chiefs, the DOJ described PSP as “a training and technical assistance program designed to enhance the capacity of local jurisdictions to address violent crime in their communities.”
Twelve cities around the country are currently participating in the program. Stockton, San Bernardino, Albuquerque and Baltimore expressed interest in the program after the announcement of the initial 12 sites.
According to the DOJ letter, “To be considered for selection, a site must:
(1) demonstrate a complete commitment to reducing violent crime; (2) have sustained levels of violence that exceed the national average; and (3) be ready to receive the intensive training and technical assistance offered by the Department.”
The four cities in question passed the preliminary screenings, but now must prove compliance with federal immigration law with respect to jail inmates.
“The way we see this letter, we are being considered, but we have to answer some questions," said Jones.
According to the DOJ letter, “The Department is reviewing your jurisdiction’s commitment to reducing violent crime stemming from illegal immigration. To aid the Department in its review, please respond to the following questions no later than August 18, 2017.”
The three questions ask about if the cities allow Homeland Security access to their jails, hold deportable inmates for 48 hours when requested by Homeland Security, and give Homeland Security 48-hour notice prior to deporting an inmate. IA “no” answer to any of the questions could lead the DOJ to view the city has as having “sanctuary policies.” However, SPD does not run a correctional facility. Jones says he plans to respond to the DOJ inquiry explaining that.
“The questions are actually quite simple because they ask about correction facilities and we do not maintain any,” said Jones.
Stockton Police Department prisoners are housed in the San Joaquin County jail. That detention facility is run by the San Joaquin County Sheriff’s Office and their policies and procedures are not subject to direction by the City of Stockton or the Stockton Police Department. Deputy Pete Smith, spokesperson for the San Joaquin County Sheriff’s Office, tells FOX40 the Office “cooperates fully” with immigration authorities.