Law officers’ use of emergency lights and their cooperation with federal immigration officials were debated at a crowded town hall hosted by the Mancos Marshal’s Office last week.
The July 2 meeting came after residents questioned whether officers excessively policed the town and cooperated with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents in May.
“This is to get public insight, on what you guys like or dislike about the direction the Marshal’s Office is currently going,” Mancos Marshal Justen Goodall said.
Topics ranged from “proactive policing” to the role the Marshal’s Office should play when federal agents operate in town.
Several residents posed concerns about use of emergency lights, which Goodall and Sgt. Brad Ray, a deputy marshal, said were part of their preventive practices.
“I’m just not comfortable with proactive policing,” one woman said.
Goodall said the Marshal’s Office adopted the policy of driving around at night with lights on after reports of vehicle break-ins.
“We started employing driving and patrolling during dusk and nighttime hours with our takedowns (lights) on due to multiple vehicle trespasses that have occurred,” he said. Takedown lights are bright lights on patrol cars used to illuminate someone while shadowing the officer doing the shining.
The number of reported trespasses has gone down since the office adopted the practice, he said.
Some residents also felt that the Marshal’s Office was patrolling too much, and officers’ presence intimidated residents and visitors – including marijuana shop customers.
However, others appreciated the increased presence of marshals.
“I think the days of Mancos being a little sleepy town are long past. ... I love the fact the marshal patrols the street,” one woman said.
Goodall said town officials directed his office to patrol every street each shift.
“We do our best to drive every street, every alley, every shift we work,” he said.
ICE detentions questioned Several attendees said the Marshal’s Office unnecessarily supported ICE agents who came to town in May and detained two Mancos residents.
At a previous Town Board meeting, several residents said they felt the town’s law enforcement was profiling people based on race or immigration status, and some continued on that theme.
One woman asked about racial profiling conducted by the Marshal’s Office, which Goodall denied.
“There is no reason that we would target somebody based on their skin color or start an investigation based on their skin color,” he said. “That’s immoral, incorrect and wrong.”
Gretchen Groenke asked, “Under what circumstances would you share information with ICE?”
Goodall replied that federal law required the Marshal’s Office share some information with other law enforcement agencies.
“So there is some information-sharing,” he said. “Does that mean that we go out and do their investigations for them? No.”
When questioned about the role the Marshal’s Office played in the recent ICE detentions, Goodall said marshals are not allowed to arrest anyone based on immigration status.
“We cannot – as local law enforcement – detain anybody solely based on an immigration detainer,” he said.
The office, however, is aware when ICE agents are in town, for the safety of town residents, he said.
‘I feel not safe’A few attendees said they felt targeted by the Marshal’s Office, and that they were being singled out for no reason. One woman spoke to Ray, alleging that he was following her and that she felt unsafe.
“I feel not safe,” she said. “If something happened to my daughter, I wouldn’t call you guys.”
Ray said he was just doing his job, and his actions were based on traffic and road violations, and not any form of profiling.
“I follow cars all day long,” he said.
The discussion between the two grew heated and argumentative, however, with Ray alleging that he in turn had been followed and filmed by the woman as well.
Another man stood to defend the two officers. He told the crowd he was born in Mexico City, had become a naturalized U.S. citizen at 26, and had become well-acquainted with Goodall and Ray within the last decade.
“When I hear individuals trying to blame the race card on these two great public servants, I absolutely feel very, very disgraced,” he said.
At the conclusion of the 1½-hour meeting, Goodall thanked people for attending.
“We’ll take what we’ve learned tonight from the meeting, and pull that to try and continue to build (these) community relations,” he said.