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Report: Chief against ICE

Former police chief privately expressed dissent to integrating ICE because he wanted to remain neutral to public.

September 17, 2008|By Joseph Serna

Publicly, former Costa Mesa police Chief John Hensley expressed concern with what enforcing immigration laws would do to his department resources.

Privately, he told city leaders he opposed the idea altogether, but city officials did not heed his warnings, sworn depositions made public this week reveal.

In October 2005, Hensley met with Mayor Eric Bever and then-Mayor Allan Mansoor regarding their plan to have Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials deputize Costa Mesa police officers, according to Hensley’s testimony. American Civil Liberties Union attorney Belinda Escobosa Helzer questioned Hensley in July about the ICE program and the January 2006 arrest of Latino activist Benito Acosta outside of a City Council meeting.

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“Did you have any concerns about their interest in partnering with ICE to cross-designate police officers to do immigration enforcement?” Helzer asked.

“My concerns were, first of all, that we had implemented a philosophy of policing called community-oriented policing and problem-solving where a key component of that philosophy is forming partnerships with members of the community,” Hensley replied.

“Particularly with Costa Mesa, it was the [Latino] community on the Westside. My belief and opinion at that time was that taking on this program would harm that relationship we worked so hard to create.”

Hensley was one of many police officers and witnesses who gave sworn depositions before ACLU and Costa Mesa attorneys earlier this year related to a civil suit Acosta filed against the city; in it, Acosta claimed that his right to free speech was violated when he was thrown out of a council meeting then detained for several hours. Excerpts from the depositions were submitted to federal court Monday as part of the ACLU argument to reject the city’s attempt to have the suit thrown out because they claim it is baseless.

ACLU attorneys claim that Acosta was targeted for prosecution because he disagreed with Mansoor and Bever’s views.

Mansoor and Bever were backing a proposed partnership with ICE officials that would train police officers in Costa Mesa to enforce federal immigration laws, essentially turning officers into ICE agents on patrol. According to officers’ testimony, most if not everyone in the department opposed the idea, with Hensley taking the argument to Mansoor and Bever.

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