When Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer signed the state’s sweeping, and controversial, immigration law earlier this year, she also signed an executive order requiring that law enforcement officers get additional training on how to avoid racial profiling.
Today, the hour-long training video the state created was released to the public. Surprisingly, it mainly focuses on how to avoid the public appearance that the law’s enforcement amounts to racial profiling.
The video focuses largely on the criticism and media scrutiny of the law’s enforcement. Do everything by the book, say the officials in the video, because people are waiting for you to screw up.
“We’re gonna be accused of racial profiling no matter what we do,” says Tucson Police Chief Roberto Villasenor.
“The best thing we can do is document thoroughly where we develop our reasonable suspicion and probably cause,” he says, and make sure those reasons would hold even if the suspect is “not in a protected class, who’s average Joe Citizen. If those factors still hold up, then you’re on firm ground.” Of course, part of the criticism of the law is that the average Joe Citizen who happens to be Latino might be detained under the suspicion that he or she is in Arizona illegally — and undocumented immigrants are hardly a “protected class” in and of themselves.
In fact, people classified in protected classes under federal law based on race, color, sex, age, national origin, disability and religion. In other words, to Arizona law enforcement, Joe Citizen (i.e., the average citizen of the state) is someone who is white, male, of a religion relatively free of discrimination, who isn’t too old, doesn’t have a disability and originates from the United States. As long as law enforcement would ask the supposedly average white man for his papers under the same circumstances, then they can feel safe from criticism that they are racially profiling, even if they are likely racially profiling. How will they prove they would have asked for papers if the person in question was white? There’s no real answer.
“Do your job in a way that you can defend yourself and your agency against those accusations, which are certain to come,” he adds.
The video also takes trainees through the law, explaining first when they’re required to ask for documentation (during an arrest or stop, when they have reasonable suspicion someone’s in the country illegally) and then what constitutes reasonable suspicion for believing that someone is in the country illegally. The list of factors for the latter includes foreign identification or vehicle registry, nervous behavior, inability to give an address, running away, and, vaguely, “dress”.
Watch TPMtv’s highlight reel:
You can watch the whole thing here.