Fear of harassment — legal and otherwise — by Leftists?

Phoenix police officers are largely failing to comply with a year-old policy that lets them question people about their immigration status, undercutting the effectiveness of a plan aimed at helping crack down on illegal immigration, an Arizona Republic investigation has found.

The tougher policy, adopted partly in response to criticism that the city provided sanctuary to undocumented immigrants by restricting police officers’ ability to ask about a person’s legal status, gives the officers more discretion to question people and to notify federal officials when they encounter a suspected illegal immigrant.

But a Republic review of internal documents and interviews with police officials found that officers frequently don’t ask people they arrest about their immigration status as required, and they rarely report suspected illegal immigrants to Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Officers also are not always following the policy requirement to document their contact with ICE officials and to get a supervisor’s approval before turning suspected illegal immigrants over to federal officials, The Republic found. Those requirements are meant to address concerns that the policy could lead to racial profiling and civil-rights abuses.

Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon, who pushed the Police Department to adopt a tougher immigration policy under pressure from the police union and other groups, said he believes the policy has achieved its goal. The new policy, he said, was not intended to mandate that officers enforce immigration laws. The point “was to give another tool to the officers” to check the immigration status of persons committing crimes, not a “dishwasher who isn’t here (legally).” “The argument was made a year ago that we (were) tying the hands of the officers that wanted to (check immigration status). So we allowed officers to do it if they followed these rules and regs. But we didn’t mandate that they have to do it,” Gordon said.

In 2008, about 7,200 suspected illegal immigrants were identified by Maricopa County jail officials following arrests for other crimes by Phoenix officers, Gordon pointed out. Phoenix police officials say they believe any non-compliance with the rules stems from ignorance of, not disregard for, the new requirements. The department has ordered more training. “There appears to be a large number of officers who are not familiar with the policy,” said Glen Gardner, a police commander who oversaw the revision of the immigration policy.

Although supervisors received individual training about the new policy, patrol officers were only shown a video during routine briefings before going out on duty. Gardner acknowledges that many officers may not have paid close attention to the video. He also said that as with any new policy, it takes time for officers to learn it.

A police union and other groups that pushed for the tougher policy say they are generally pleased and blame the large number of officers ignoring the policy on too much red tape. But critics worry that some officers, by not documenting contact with ICE, are trying to enforce immigration laws without supervisors knowing, which could lead to civil-rights abuses.

Meanwhile, all law-enforcement officers in Arizona may soon become more involved with arresting illegal immigrants. A bill moving through the state Senate would give police the authority to arrest illegal immigrants on state misdemeanor trespassing charges, leading to possible jail time. A second offense could result in felony charges.