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Statement Reaffirming MPD Policy Prohibiting Police Inquiries Into the Citizenship, Immigration or Residency Status of Individuals

Monday, July 28, 2003
Statement from the Metropolitan Police Department

The policy of the District of Columbia concerning enforcement of immigration laws was announced in Mayor’s Memorandum 84-41. This memorandum prohibits District government agents, agencies, officers or employees from making inquiries of subjects, directly or indirectly, about citizenship or U.S. residency status, unless federal or District regulations and judicial decisions require that inquiries be made to determine eligibility for benefits. The District of Columbia and the Metropolitan Police Department continue to strictly adhere to this policy.

The Metropolitan Police Department has incorporated the District’s policy by including specific directions to police officers in General Order 201.26. This order establishes policy and procedures for how MPD officers conduct themselves when performing their duties, exercising police powers and interacting with the public. Part of an officer’s responsibility is to know that officers are not permitted to question persons about residency or immigration status, except in very limited circumstances. Inquiries into immigration status are allowed, pursuant to the General Order, only when officers are investigating crimes involving the criminal smuggling and harboring of immigrants or other crimes that have as an element of the crime the illegality of a person’s presence. Officers shall not make inquiries into immigration status for the purpose of determining whether an individual has violated the civil immigration laws and enforcing those laws.

There may be certain situations in which MPD officers, during the normal course of their duties, learn about the immigration status of individuals they come into contact with, because that status is already flagged in various law enforcement databases. For example, any time officers detain an individual, they are required to run checks in the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) database, the National Law Enforcement Telecommunications System (NLETS), and other law enforcement databases for outstanding warrants. Some limited categories of immigration law violations are currently included in these databases. As a result, while performing an NCIC database run, NLETS inquiry or other law enforcement database check, an officer may learn that an individual has an outstanding arrest warrant. In these instances, the officer will take appropriate police action to arrest and detain the individual.

However, NCIC database checks, NLETS inquiries or other law enforcement database checks will not be made in circumstances where they are not already required under MPD policy for all individuals, regardless of national origin. In other words, officers are strictly prohibited from running database inquiries solely for the purpose of inquiring about immigrant status.

All MPD officers, during their recruit training, receive instruction on General Order 201.26 and related issues concerning the prohibition against inquiring about the immigration or residency status of individuals. To emphasize the importance of this issue, the MPD provides officers with periodic follow-up training and reminders on Department policy and procedures.

The Metropolitan Police Department takes very seriously its responsibilities in this area, and the Department is committed to providing high-quality service, in partnership with all communities. Individuals who believe an MPD officer has violated Department policy on immigration status inquiries, or has engaged in any other type of misconduct, are encouraged to contact the MPD’s Office of Professional Responsibility at (202) 727-4385.