So What Constitutes “Reasonable Suspicion” for Arizona Police Officers Enforcing SB1070?

It’s a question that’s been nagging me for a bit, so I did some research and found a couple good answers from experts.

First, from “Jack Dunphy,” (pseudonym) a police officer with the LAPD:

How will the police, ask the critics, determine what is “reasonable suspicion” to believe someone might be an illegal immigrant? On this I can speak from long experience, as I have spent a good part of my police career working in neighborhoods of Los Angeles where illegal immigrants can be found in abundance (there are many such neighborhoods here).

As police officers develop on the job they learn to recognize certain cultural patterns, perhaps the most important of which are those displayed by men who have spent time in prison. Such men almost invariably adopt manners of dress, speech, and behavior that a seasoned police officer can recognize instantly — and he had better, if he wants to end his day in the same condition he started it.

Even if you were to dress an ex-con in a Brooks Brothers suit, give him a hundred-dollar haircut, and place him among a group of men similarly dressed and coiffed, any cop who had been around a while would have no trouble at all picking him out of the crowd.

This is not to equate illegal immigrants with ex-convicts, but the concept of noticing cultural cues nonetheless applies. Regardless of a given person’s ethnicity, there are mannerisms and behaviors that are more common on one side of our southern border than the other, and the degree to which a person displays these mannerisms and behaviors offers the careful observer an idea of which side of that border the person is from and how long it has been since he crossed it.

Next, an answer from Mark Spencer, president of the Phoenix Law Enforcement Association:

The second issue: What does “reasonable suspicion” mean to a police officer?

The law has been clarified to state that race, color or national origin cannot be considered “except to the extent permitted” by the U.S. and state constitutions.

Spencer said reasonable suspicion could include an admission of being in the country illegally, having fake identification, having foreign identification without a visa or U.S. immigration documentation, or having no identification.

Finally, just so no officers are confused as to how to go about enforcing the law, all 15,000 of them in Arizona are going to have to go through a special training course.

From the Associated Press:

Board begins work on training for Ariz. officers

PHOENIX — Arizona police officers will be taught that race and ethnicity cannot be used when enforcing a new illegal immigration law, the state’s top police training official said Wednesday — without offering a definition of reasonable suspicion that someone is in the country illegally.


The Arizona Peace Officer Standards and Training Board voted unanimously Wednesday to adopt a framework for a video training course that will be distributed to all 15,000 Arizona police officers.

The five-page framework is an outline of the agency’s plan for the video. It doesn’t include a script or details of exactly what officers will be told. The video will emphasize the importance of professionalism, ethics and integrity, as well as an officer’s duty to protect civil rights.

Retired federal immigration agents will describe how federal officers are trained to avoid racial profiling and the documents that immigrants are required to carry.

Officers will be taught how to contact federal immigration authorities or local officers certified by the federal government to determine someone’s immigration status.

The training will be distributed to all 170 police agencies by the end of June. Police bosses will decide the best way to teach their officers, but there is no requirement that officers watch the video before the law takes effect July 29.


One Response to So What Constitutes “Reasonable Suspicion” for Arizona Police Officers Enforcing SB1070?

  1. […] identification without a visa or U.S. immigration documentation, or having no identification. So What Constitutes “Reasonable Suspicion” for Arizona Police Officers Enforcing SB1070?… Now explain to us how that is unreasonable? Do you not trust the police? Now to Lawful stop: […]

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