MPD Chief Mike Koval

Madison Police Department Chief Mike Koval announced a new standard operating procedure and an updated code of conduct regarding immigration policies in a blog post Monday. 

In response to immigration concerns at the federal level, Madison Police Chief Mike Koval announced Monday he has created a new standard operating procedure and updated the department’s code of conduct regarding immigration policies.

The new policy clearly states that immigration status is only relevant when someone has committed serious crimes directly related to public safety.

“It is my hope that these changes will further affirm our commitment to providing qualitative services to ALL of our residents while also providing some measure of comfort that the MPD will not be engaging in/with (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) in matters that are only concentrated on deportation,” Koval said in a blog post announcing the change.

Koval’s actions follow a series of executive orders signed by President Donald Trump that limit immigration and the rights of refugees. Federal judges in four states have blocked aspects of Trump’s order and protests broke out in airports and public spaces across the nation after the president signed the orders.

MPD’s standard operating procedure now specifies that the department would cooperate with a lawful request from Immigration and Customs Enforcement only when an individual is engaged in or is suspected of terrorism or espionage, reasonably suspected of participating in a criminal street gang, arrested for any violent felony or is a previously deported felon.

It also says that officers should obtain approval from a commander or officer-in-charge prior to detaining any individual for these reasons.

Officers are not to “routinely inquire” into the immigration status of individuals during police operations or ask anyone to show a passport, Alien Registration (or "green") card or any other immigration documentation during police work, according to the new policy. However, police officers can accept these documents as a form of identification when voluntarily provided.

“An individual’s right to file a police report or otherwise receive services from MPD is not contingent upon their citizenship or immigration status,” the standard operating procedure states. 

The updated code of conduct more explicitly explains when the MPD would be in contact with ICE and that the department will not participate in so-called immigration raids where the goal is to arrest individuals who are suspected to be in violation of immigration laws.

“MPD will not self-initiate contact, detain, arrest, or investigate any person(s) solely for a suspected violation of immigration status laws,” the code of conduct states. “MPD cooperation with requests from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) are predicated upon assisting only with those operations in which serious crimes directly relating to public safety are involved.”

Though the MPD’s previous code of conduct stated that the department would not act as an immigration authority, Koval said he decided to further clarify the language after talking with community members and elected officials.

“Strong rhetoric and affirmative pledges to bring about changes through legislative counter punches or lawsuits can only go so far and can take time,” Koval said in the blog post. “The people who need to get to work, go to school, and take their families to worship, need greater proof that institutions, like the police, will enable them to go about pursuing their ‘normal’ lives.”

Share your opinion on this topic by sending a letter to the editor to tctvoice@madison.com. Include your full name, hometown and phone number. Your name and town will be published. The phone number is for verification purposes only. Please keep your letter to 250 words or less.