Day 2 of NSA: Border Security and Other Legislative Priorities

National Police Support Fund - Update

The second day of the National Sheriff’s Association Legislative conference began on Sunday in Washington, DC.  

The first breakout session of the day was on the topic of border security. Matthew Alibience, Deputy Director, United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) provided a briefing to attendees on the status of programs relating to ICE. The most pressing concern that was addressed by Albience was on the topic of the federal budget. With the federal government teetering on the brink of another shutdown, the Democratic-controlled United States House of Representatives is proposing to cap the amount of detention beds for enforcement at 16,500.  Albience said that the proposed cuts by ICE are very short-sighted and would cripple the agency’s ability to conduct their mission.

Sheriffs in attendance representing the states by the Mexico-United States border expressed serious concerns about the cap. This is because ICE partners with county jails across the country to provide additional detention bed space when their facilities run full. Another issue that was addressed during Albience’s remarks was on the issue of resistance by large city Mayors when ICE conducts enforcement raids. This has happened in cities like Baltimore, Madison, WI, and Philadelphia. Albience said that ICE aims to be cooperative with all law enforcement agencies. This is usually accomplished by informing the local agencies that an enforcement action will take place ahead of time.

The afternoon breakout session was discussed about volunteer police forces and the motivations of the public to serve in such roles. Dr. Ross Wolf, Associate Dean of Criminal Justice at the University of Central Florida, discussed in-depth about who serves in the volunteer forces and and their underlying motivations. Dr. Wolf talked about his experience also leading the volunteer forces on the Orange County (FL) Sheriff’s Department.. According to Wolf, the usual person that serves on a volunteer police force comes from a variety of professional backgrounds. According to Wolf, most volunteers in auxiliary police forces are usually middle-aged and older than their full-time counterparts. Wolf made this comparison to volunteer police forces in the United Kingdom.  Most volunteers on police forces in the United Kingdom are women and they are given full power even to make arrests.

Each state differs on the training requirements for auxiliary police officers. Some states do not require enrollment in the academy that is used to train and select full-time officers. Dr. Wolf said that California has the most stringent entrance requirements for auxiliary police including required enrollment in a police academy program. Dr, Wolf talked about three major reasons why volunteer police officers are used. The first is to supplement full-time officers when they are dealt with an emergency that can affect their operating capacity. Volunteer officers are used to provide crowd control at major events like football games, help with barricades or closing off streets in the event of major emergencies, or to provide administrative support to the police.

The last session that National Police Support Fund attended on Sunday was the Congressional briefing. Madeline Colaiezzi, Manager of Government Relations for the National Sheriff’s Association, discussed about the legislative agenda for the NSA in 2019. Border security was the most important legislative priority according to Colaiezzi. NSA would advocate for four-tier approach for border security that would work together with state, local, federal, and regional agencies. Despite the Southern border is talked about a lot in the media, the issue of immigration at the Northern border in Canada has become an increasing concern. Colaiezzi also announced at the briefing that NSA’ would send a letter to Congress against the proposed funding cuts against ICE.

Colaiezzi also mentioned that the NSA was successful in getting additional language in the First Step Act that would prohibit certain offenders from receiving good time credit in federal prisons. The NSA was able to ensure that convicted gun criminals, fentanyl distributors, Meth kingpins, and sex traffickers were prohibited from receiving good time credit.

Marijuana will be the other legislative topic of interest in 2019.. Marijuana has become a hot-topic button issue in Congress. This is because Senator Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) introduced S. 420 that would legalize marijuana use in all 50 states. The NSA’s current stance on marijuana is that they oppose marijuana use for medicinal and recreational use. When the NSA meets again in June in Louisville, the organization will reconsider its position for another two years as resolutions are renewed at the annual conference.

This wraps up day two of the NSA conference. We will be back for day three tomorrow with an update from Capitol Hill, mental health, and best practices in jails.

Day 1 of NSA: Crimes Against the Disabled, Identity Document Fraud are Growing Concerns Among Sheriffs

A chilly, thirty-two degree day in Washington, DC did not stop the nation’s Sheriffs from descending into the nation’s capital to learn on policy concerns during the 2019 NSA Winter Legislative conference.

In the days leading up to the beginning of the conference, more breakout sessions on additional topics were added. There were two in particular that the National Police Support Fund attended on Saturday. Those were on crimes against the disabled and identity document fraud.

Leslie Meyers, Senior Program Associate for the Vera Institute of Justice, discussed about how individuals with disabilities can be easier targets of crime compared to other sectors of the American population. Meyers said that individuals with disabilities are twelve times more likely to be a victim of crime compared to a non-disabled individual. Additional research from Disability Rights Wisconsin has found that disabled individuals are seven times more likely to be victims of sexual assault.

Not all crime victims that are disabled have physical limitations. Those with intellectual and other disabilities are also at risk of being a crime victim. Disabled individuals may not be able to defend themselves when being targeted by a criminal compared to someone who is able-bodied. Another problem Meyers identified is a culture of compliance that has been engendered in special education programs across the nation’s K-12 schools. Special education students deal with a top-down system of learning in which compliance with a teacher’s demands is valued more than problem solving or other collaborative methods. This so-called compliance culture has been tied to crimes of sexual and non-sexual assault of students involving educational personnel.

Identity documents fraud was the other breakout session the National Police Support Fund attended on Saturday. Carl Lichvarcik, Section Operations Chief, and Jim Ross, Document Examiner, of the Department of Homeland Security ICE HIS Forensic Laboratory discussed about the growing problem of identity document fraud.  

Lichvarcik discussed about how foreign nationals are committing identity document fraud in a variety of fashions. When an employee begins a new job, a common prerequisite is that a I-9 form must be filled out before any work can begin. Form I-9 lists a total of 34 documents that can be used to establish identity for an individual to establish the legal right to work in the United States. Lichvarcik said that there is a growing black market of foreign actors who are selling identity documents that can be passed off as legal.

There have been various examples of how the DHS has prevented fake identity documents from moving into shore. Over 500 fake drivers licenses from 20 states were seized last August at Philadelphia International Airport. A Utah man was sentenced to 60 days in jail last month for selling fake social security cards to a undercover agent. Fake green cards that were issued by managers of one of Donald Trump’s golf clubs in New Jersey were seized. There have been reports of street vendors peddling fake Social Security cards in Los Angeles.

Jim Ross spent the other part of the session talking about the problem of fake driver’s licenses in the United States being sold by overseas companies. States like New York, Virginia, Texas,  and Wisconsin have issued new driver’s licenses and identification cards that have cutting edge security features to prevent fraud. Ross also shown how overseas companies are trying to imitate the new licenses, but lack the certain security features by showing the examples of a genuine versus a fake license. New York State seized a record amount of fake ID’s in 2018.

This completes day 1. We will be attending day 2 looking at border security, volunteering in police, and a briefing from Congressional staff.

Day 3 of NSA: Mental Health, Jails, and a Visit to Capitol Hill Dominate the Final Full Day of the Conference

Monday began the third and full final session day of the National Sheriff’s Association Winter Legislative and Technology conference in Washington, DC.

The big headline coming out of Monday’s proceedings was 50 Sheriffs and other participants boarded buses to Capitol Hill to deliver a letter signed by the board of directors of the NSA to Members of Congress. Congressman Mark Walker (R-North Carolina) received the letter on behalf of the NSA asking members to stop a proposed budget plan that would cripple the ability of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to carry out its mission. The Democratic-controlled House majority led by Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California) is proposing limiting the amount of detention beds ICE can operate to 13,500. Matthew Albience, Deputy Director of ICE, told NSA members on Sunday that Speaker Pelosi’s proposal was “short-sighted”.

Harmony Goorley and Dr. David Stephens of FALCON, Inc.  spoke on Monday morning relating to how jails can operate in a more trauma-informed fashion. Both Goorley and Dr. Stephens discussed that both jail inmates and staff can be subjected to traumatic-related mental illness. Inmates deal with trauma if it is tied to a past event such as child abuse, assaults, or intimate partner violence. A previous traumatic experience that a inmate is forced to relive may force them to act out inappropriately towards other inmates or prison staff. This leads to increased rule violations and conflicts between inmates. Jail staff such as correctional officers, health care workers, and other administrative professionals are not immune to mental health challenges. Goorley said that the average age of a correctional officer at the time of their death is 59 years old. Sheriff’s deputies and other staff who work in the jails deal with increased overtime and having to endure traumatic experiences such as fights between inmates. Correctional officers also have one of the highest suicide rates amongst various professions in the United States. Both Goorley and Stephens asked Sheriffs to work on finding a program that balances the needs of treating inmates humanely, with the need to discipline rules violations and ensuring the well-being of jail staff.

Experts from the United States Department of Justice discussed about Medicated Assisted Treatment (MAT) in jails on Monday afternoon. One major function of running a Sheriff’s Department is maintaining a detention facility. Groups like the American Civil Liberties Union have made Sheriffs a prime target in lawsuits over administering MAT to inmates. The ACLU’s most notable lawsuits relating to MAT have came in Whatcom County, Washington, Aroostook County, Maine, and Essex County, Massachusetts. Peter J. Koutoujian, Sheriff of Middlesex County, Massachusetts, discussed how his county has successfully used the MATADOR program to tackle the opioid crisis. Participants in the MATADOR program had a 77 percent success rate completing the program with no recidivism. 98.5 percent of the participants regardless of their success or failure did not succumb to a fatal overdose.  Koutoujian has consulted Sheriffs across the nation who want to implement such a program in their own counties.

The day ended with the plenary session featuring Acting United States Attorney General Matthew Whitaker, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, and National Football League Vice President of Operations Troy Vincent. All three of the speakers were presented with honorary Sheriff’s badges as a token of appreciation from the NSA after their remarks.

The 2019 NSA Winter Technology and Legislative Conference provided an opportunity to learn the latest policy trends and solutions to tackling the issues affecting law enforcement. We look forward to highlighting these issues during the 2019 calendar year.