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Blog Post: Only in America Podcast with Chief Mike Brown

Law Enforcement Immigration Task Force   Blog

In this episode of Only in America, Ali Noorani spoke with Chief Mike Brown of Salt Lake City, Utah to discuss the intersection of immigration and law enforcement, and how immigrant members of the Salt Lake City community have been vital to local law enforcement through their Explorers Program. Chief Brown, who has been chief since 2016, discussed the need for building trust in the community, especially among immigrants who associate law enforcement with discrimination, surveillance, and a risk of deportation. He and other law enforcement officials work to build trust by recruiting a diverse roster of law enforcement individuals who belong to the communities they serve. Chief Brown also discussed the importance of understanding changing demographics: “We have diversity and we’ve tried very hard as a police department to make it look like the community we serve. This is one of the biggest things we’ve done in the past year … try to involve our community in our police department and have our police department look like the community we serve,” stated Chief Brown.

Chief Brown later spoke about the county’s Explorers Program, which engages and recruits young adults from local immigrant communities. This program has been in place for almost eight years and allows interested individuals to learn more about a career in law enforcement. Participants must be between the ages of 14-20, have a GPA of at least 2.0, and complete a background check. Additionally, Explorers need to commit to attending weekly, four-hour meetings.  Chief Brown explained how the young adults who complete these requirements go on to aid law enforcement officials by accompanying them to events such as parades, marathons, and maintaining the Fallen Officers memorial by acting as “Guardians of the Fallen.” In 2019, these Salt Lake City’s Explorers contributed over 8,000 hours in community service, averaging about 169.5 hours per Explorer. “It is a great recruiting tool and is the most diverse unit in the department by race, ethnicity, and gender,” Chief Brown explained.

However, when some of these Explorers want to join the police force after completing their training, many cannot due to their immigration status. “It’s ironic that you can serve in the military and die for your country, but you can’t be in law enforcement … A lot of these [Explorers] have been here since they were 2 or 3 years old… This is their country,” stated Chief Brown. Legislation passed by Utah State Senator Karen Mayne looked to remove these restrictions by allowing immigrants who are legal residents to serve as police officers. According to Chief Brown, there are over 30,000 Utahns eligible for DACA status. “When you start looking at it as people… as young Explorers that want to serve the police department, that really puts a face to a problem. The passing of this legislation was a good start, but I would like to see it go one step further,” said Chief Brown.

When considering immigration laws, and immigrants in law enforcement, Chief Brown advised people to not “count anybody out, embrace those who want to serve, and let’s see where it takes us.” Moreover, he added “federal immigration is the stumbling block. States and cities want these restrictions lifted. It’s the federal institutions that need to come together and fix this.”

You can listen to the podcast episode linked here

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