Virginia police officer suspended after turning in driver involved in traffic accident to ICE, police chief says

PHOTO: Fairfax police cars are seen here in this undated file photo.PlayFairfax County Police Dept.
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A Virginia police department has suspended one of its officers after he turned a driver involved in a traffic accident over to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, according to the local police chief.

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The Fairfax County Police officer, who was not named, was handling a traffic accident in Alexandria on Saturday afternoon when he found that one of the drivers involved did not have a Virginia license, Chief Edwin C. Roessler Jr. said in a statement.

After the officer conducted a check to verify the man's DMV record, he received a notification from ICE stating that the man was wanted for an administrative violation for failing to appear for a deportation hearing, Roessler said. The officer then contacted the ICE agent listed on the warrant and advised the agent "that they were close by," Roessler said.

The officer issued a uniform summons to the man for not having an operator's license, and then "decided to detain the driver through a custodial detention" and turn him over to the ICE agent.

The officer's actions violated a general order for the department that was adopted in 2007, which states that officers should not confirm an administrative warrant of removal for individuals who are not in custody or being taken into custody, according to the statement.

"The majority of such administrative warrants represent civil violations of immigration law," the order states.

Also, officers are trained to not enforce administrative warrants, or detain someone based on such a warrant, and that they "have no authority to enforce federal law." The police department has been working closely with community members and advocates to review its orders, Roessler said.

"As a matter of full transparency to our community – our police officer violated our longstanding policy and deprived a person of their freedom, which is unacceptable," Roessler said, adding that he immediately directed that an internal investigation be conducted "to ensure that all are held accountable for this violation."

The police officer has been relieved of all law enforcement duties pending the outcome of the investigation, he said.

"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."

The driver was released three hours later and issued an ankle monitor, Roessler said.

As local jurisdictions around the country have taken steps to limit the information provided to federal immigration authorities, President Donald Trump has repeatedly threatened to revoke funding from those municipalities.