Minneapolis Transit Officer Fired After Asking for Passenger’s Immigration Status

transit

A Minnesota Transit officer was fired after he was caught on video asking a light rail passenger if he was in the country illegally.

After the exchange with the transit officer, the passenger, Ariel Vences-Lopez, 23, was arrested for fare evasion and was taken to the Hennepin County jail in Minneapolis. He was eventually placed on a detainer for immigration violations, the Star Tribune reported.

The incident occurred May 14 and was captured on cellphone video. The officer is seen asking Vences-Lopez for a government-issued ID after an apparent ticket dispute. When Vences-Lopez shook his head, the officer asks: “Are you here illegally?”

That video eventually went viral. The police chief released a statement on Saturday saying the officer no longer was an employee of the department.




“We… are working to reestablish the trust that was broken by this isolated incident,” said a statement released by Metro Transit Police Chief John Harrington. “…The image of a single officer’s questioning immigration status is not reflective of, nor does it represent, the practices and procedures of Metro Transit officers.”

The statement said that Vences-Lopez was picked up by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents days after his arrest – but three days before the video was posted on Facebook. The department said there was no reference to his immigration status on the police report and ICE was not contacted.

Metro Transit Statement :
A statement from Metro Transit Police Chief John Harrington:
Metro Transit remains committed to ensuring its officers protect our communities and act in accordance with the high standards expected of them. Our policies and procedures reflect our commitment that our officers will not act as immigration officers.
On May 23rd, Metro Transit first became aware that an officer questioned a rider about his immigration status. Immediately, our focus turned to ensuring that our officers fully understand and adhere to our policy regarding immigration status. The policy has been updated to explicitly state that Metro Transit officers will “ensure equal enforcement of the law and equal service to all persons regardless of their immigration status.” We also are working to reestablish the trust that was broken by this isolated incident.
As our internal investigation proceeded, we understood that Vences-Lopez had been released from the custody of the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office. Believing that he was free and scheduled for a June Hennepin County court appearance, our goal was to explore options for him, such as the possibility of some diversion, rather than a court date.




We learned on the evening of Friday, May 25th that Vences-Lopez was in Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody and was scheduled for deportation. Vences-Lopez was first brought to the Hennepin County Adult Detention Center on Sunday, May 14 for fare evasion. There was no reference to his immigration status in the police reports, nor did MTPD notify ICE or any other agency of any immigration-related concerns. As is standard procedure, he was placed in the custody of the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office. We now know that on May 16th, three days before the video of the interaction was posted, he was placed in ICE custody.
We continue to reach out to community partners to notify them of updated information. We are also working to address the issues raised by community members. The officer seen in the video is no longer an employee of the Metro Transit Police Department. We have initiated a process for posting the Metro Transit Police Department’s manual online, making it publicly accessible.
Metro Transit officers come into contact with thousands of riders on a daily basis. We strongly value our relationship with all of the communities we serve and fully understand the importance of our riders’ need to feel confident that they can interact with our officers without fear. The image of a single officer’s questioning immigration status is not reflective of, nor does it represent, the practices and procedures of Metro Transit officers.

Vences-Lopez is awaiting deportation to Mexico.

Minneapolis is not a “sanctuary city” but since 2003 has had an ordinance in the books preventing police officers from asking about a person’s immigration status unless it’s relevant to a crime.




Harrington said he is reminding all the officers about the laws in the books.

“We strongly value our relationship with all of the communities we serve,” he said, “and fully understand the importance of our riders’ need to feel confident that they can interact with our officers without fear.”

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Filming Cops
Filming Cops 3399 posts

Filming Cops was started in 2010 as a conglomerative blogging service documenting police abuse. The aim isn’t to demonize the natural concept of security provision as such, but to highlight specific cases of State-monopolized police brutality that are otherwise ignored by traditional media outlets.

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