When the courts wade into police procedures it usually means life is about to get more difficult for cops, yet the opposite is true in Arizona.
Key portions of the new immigration law, which went into effect on Thursday, were tossed out by U.S. District Court Judge Susan Bolton. The judge ruled that a requirement for officers to ascertain the legal status of any suspected foreign national not only impinged on federal authority, it also exposed far too many law-abiding and documented people to seizure.
In short, Judge Bolton gave police officers that most treasured of tools: discretion.
Cops are no longer required to substantiate the legal status of a suspected alien. Absent this ruling, last Thursday would have been the beginning of a wave of arrests by police that would have satisfied no one. Not the taxpayers who would have to pay for incarcerating huge numbers of illegal aliens (and legally residing individuals without proper documentation), not the politicians on both sides of the aisle who would be wading through the backlash, and not the cops.
This result would have added one more burdensome task to a job where paperwork, not public safety, is occupying more and more of an individual officer’s shift. This law, as written, would have created a sweeping and fundamental change for every municipal and county law enforcement agency in the manner of handling street contacts.
By example, consider the following scenarios: 1) police detain a family stopped for speeding on the way to the movies; 2) police detain a gang-banger arrested for a drive-by shooting. Arizona’s law required that both scenarios be treated equally in terms of status verification. But the federal court ruling has removed this absurdity, once again allowing Arizona law enforcement officers to use the judgment for which they were screened and trained to utilize.
Nobody likes to be told how to do their jobs. Especially by politicians.