ROELAND PARK, Kan. -- Roeland Park Police Chief John Morris insists there’s nothing new and unusual with Monday night’s official adoption of "safe and welcoming" language into the police department’s protocols.
Several residents disagreed, however, crowding into the city council chambers to voice their opposition to what many perceive as a policy of non-cooperation with federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
“We’re planning on welcoming unknown thousands of impoverish federal fugitives to Roeland Park,” said Stuart Speer, one of several residents who voiced opposition to the new approach. “And that, in fact, welcome doesn’t really cover the issue. What we’re doing is inviting them.”
Several members of the city council pointed out there has been rampant misinformation about the "safe and welcoming" ordinance.
And Morris repeated, several times, that officially adopting this posture into the protocol of his department is not a departure from the current operations.
“We are not calling in officers overtime to go to round-ups,” Morris said. “We are not paying over time or resources to do surveillance we’re not having to buy new equipment. That’s not our function.”
Morris and other city leaders pointed out that Roeland Park officers would still cooperate with federal officials in the case of a felony warrant or dangerous fugitive.
But in terms of large-scale citizenship raids, Morris argued those functions are the purview of federal agents, not local, county or state police.
“It’s not the Roeland Park Police Department, it’s not the sheriff department, it’s not the highway patrol it’s not the KBI to be out there enforcing all these immigration laws. It’s just not," he said. "We have other things to do with our community.”
While other local municipalities have voiced opposition to working with ICE on citizenship enforcement, Roeland Park is believed to be the first in the area to have a written policy.