Saturday, June 17, 2017

Dear Immigrant, About the police....

Dear Immigrant,

I know the mayor of our city has been critical of Immigration police because immigrants might not know the difference between ICE and Metro Police.  I am going to try to help the Mayor help you sort this out.

In Nashville, as well as in the rest of America, you will see a variety of different types of "police," or law enforcement officers or security people.  You need to be aware that not everyone who has a badge and a vest that says "police" and a leather belt with a stuff hanging off of it are all the same. Not every car with light bar across the top and that looks like a police car is a Metro Police car but if the light is flashing, I would suggest getting out of the way.

We do not have a national police force in America, the way many countries do. Our founders did not think having a national police force was a good idea.  I know the country you came from may have had a national police force and it may have been corrupt and may have been used to suppress descent and to prop up the regime.  Such is not the case in this country.  Police in this country are local. Also, they are usually not used by politician to harass political opponents and prop up the current administration and they do not normally accept bribes. I know for many of you, that bribing the police was part of routine business in your country of origin. In many places in the world the police are corrupt; not so much in America.

In Davidson County, in addition to the Metro Police, we have the Davidson County Sheriff's deputies and they wear a uniform and drive police-type cars, but the Sheriff's office in this county does not have law enforcement duties.  They keep the jail and serve civil warrants. If being served with a warrant, I suggest accepting it and not smarting off.  They are not going to arrest you, all they are going to do is give you a piece of paper. They are not going to ask you about your immigration status.

Locally, other prominent "police" you may encounter are the Fire Marshall and Metro School Police.  The Metro School Police have law enforcement duties on Metro school property and I think they investigate truant students, but I am not sure about that. Also you will see school crossing guards.  They are part of the Police Department. There job is to make cars slow down in school zones and to
help children safely cross the street.  They will not ask you about your immigration status.

Another type of "police" you will encounter in Nashville is the Vanderbilt Police and maybe other college police.  By an agreement with Metro, they can write traffic tickets and they have other police functions. Don't argue with them and say, "Well, you are just a campus police and I'm not a student and not on campus."  They can arrest you.  There authority stretches beyond the campus boundaries.

You may encounter the Berry Hill Police or the Belle Meade Police.  Nashville is one big city that covers the whole county but we do have these little cities within the city.  These police from Berry Hill really are police. Also, much like campus police, they can enforce law near to but outside their city limits.  Anyway, you probably won't know where the city limits are of these small cities. Be aware that the Berry Hill police are very particular about people driving over the speed limit in their city, so be careful.

In addition to local police you may encounter others with police powers. In Tennessee we have the TBI, and the Highway Patrol. Also, Wild Life Resource Officers and Park Rangers and several other people authorized to make arrest and enforce some laws.  Don't get caught fishing without a license or a Park Ranger or a Wildlife Resource Officer or Fish and Game Warden may give you a ticket or maybe arrest you.  I am not sure exactly what duties they have. I am not sure if Wild Life Resource Officers are the same as Fish and Game Wardens or not, they may be a different name for the same thing. Even a native born American and a citizen of the State of Tennessee is not always certain who can do what.

There are also lots of Federal law enforcement agents you may encounter. There are thousands and
thousands of them.  You know about ICE, of course, and the Border Patrol, but another major agency of the Federal Government to be aware of is the FBI. They normally do not enforce local law unless called in to help local police. Other major Federal law enforcement agencies are the United States Marshals Service (USMS), , the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), and Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP).

In addition to the big Federal law enforcement organizations there are dozens of other agencies, maybe hundreds, with limited law enforcement authority. The Department of Agriculture has the Office of Inspector General (USDA OIG), the United States Forest Service (USFS), U.S. Forest Service Law Enforcement and Investigations (USFS LEI).  That is just Ag; Commerce Department has a bunch of gun-toting uniformed organizations under Commerce authority. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has there own armed force. the EPA and Social Security have an armed force. In my view we have too many armed federal agents.  If an agency of government has a military-style police force, they will find an excuse to use it.  I think people should be able to deal with their government without being intimidated. I know all of this about the military units of different bureaucracies is a lot of information and hard to keep up with it all.  Don't even try.

Sometimes these Federal police agencies act like the police in authoritarian countries.  On August 24th, 2011, a SWAT team of about 20 federal agents armed with high-powered weapons raided the Gibson Guitar factories in Nashville and Memphis. They detained people without charges, and confiscated property and treating people like terrorist. They were not looking for undocumented people but for undocumented wood. Why it took a 20-person swat team intimidating and terrorizing people when one guy with a summons dressed in a business suit could have done the job is beyond me. That should not happen in America, but it does. (link)

Each branch of he military has its own police which usually just concernx itself with military people who are misbehaving, but they may be authorized to enforce traffic laws near their military base. If you are in the vicinity of Fort Campbell, you may encounter the Fort Campbell Military Police.

Sometimes, "police" or not really police but get away with acting like it. Back in 2010 - 2013 Metro Government tried to stamp out emerging alternatives to taxi and limousine service. The city had a price-fixing scheme and arcane regulations designed to protect then current transit companies from competition. To stamp out the emerging competition, the city used police-state-like tactics.  The Transportation Licensing Commission acted like police-state gangsters, illegally impersonating police officers, illegally using blue lights, writing tickets on phony trumped-up charges and intimidating and threatening drivers of the independent private car services.  Many of the drivers of the independent car companies were immigrants and some came from authoritarian countries where the police are feared and corrupt. They were more susceptible to "police" intimidation than native-born Americans. This tactic of intimidation and illegally impersonating police was exposed, got national attention and ended. (link)  You will probably never encounter something like this but just be aware that it does happen.

There is a whole other type of police that are private police.  There are private investigators who often work for attorneys in civil and criminal cases and do things like try to catch a cheating spouses, or investigate fraud, or serve summons. They have to be licensed by the state.  They are often armed. I don't know if they carry a badge in Tennessee or not.  They are not official government law enforcement officers but they know the law. A special type of private investigator is insurance investigators who investigate false insurance claims.

Another type of private police is those who work for alarm or security companies such as ADT. Some patrol neighborhoods in gated communities or patrol large industrial areas. Also, they respond to monitored alarm system alarms. They look like police and drive what looks like police cars. They are usually armed and are licensed by the State but they are not real police.

The most common type of private "police" you will see are the mall cop or big department store cops or the "police" you see at music or sporting events. These are often called "rent-a-cops."  They  protect the public from people who would rob them or commit violence,  deter crime, and do crowd control.  I don't think they really have any police authority.  Some of the "police" you see at things like sporting events really are police and working these events is there off-duty job.  An off-duty policeman is still a policeman with all of the powers and authority he would have working on-duty.

I am not an expert on the exact authority each type of "police" have. This is just a quick explanation.  The point of this essay is to explain that not every person performing policing duties is a Metro Nashville Police Department policeman. The mayor seems to think that that is what immigrants believe.

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