Some Hartford city leaders said they believe two agents from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement posed as police officers when they tried to serve a warrant for a woman in Connecticut illegally last weekend.
Mayor Luke Bronin and Chief James Rovella said the agents had "no visible indication of their affiliation with ICE" and tried to detain the woman in the lobby of City’s Public Safety Complex in Hartford on March 12. Both were armed and wearing plain clothes.
"When FBI shows up, their apparel says FBI, when DEA shows up, it says DEA," Bronin said. "In this case, you have ICE agents that say police and there is no visible identification."
Bronin and Rovella said these agents were wearing clothing that said "police" on it and was trying to "create the impression that they were, in fact, local police."
“Our police officers have worked hard to build that trust, and for ICE agents to present themselves as local police will undermine the hard work our department has done. We follow all state and federal laws, and we will partner with anyone to help get violent criminals off our streets. But federal agents should not be creating the impression that they are local police," Bronin said in a statement on Monday.
Police said the unidentified woman was in the country illegally and believe she was recently arrested on a larceny charge.
The agents met a friend of this woman on Capitol Avenue and they all agreed to meet at police headquarters. The woman never showed.
When police asked them why they chose the police instead of meeting the woman in another area, they said "the p word isn't as scary to them as the I word."
Community leaders said this incident confuses the community.
“They should represent ICE and not police because these are two different agencies,” community activist Ester Sanches-Naet said. “ICE is a federal government and police is municipal and the laws are so different.”
Rovella said all law enforcement,"not acting in an undercover capacity, working in our community should be readily identified by the agencies that they represent."
“ICE Agents should not identify as local police as it is misleading and can damage the important relationship with our local communities," Rovella said in a statement on Monday.
Something similar happened in Los Angeles when ICE officials identified themselves as police officers during immigration investigations. City officials there sent letters to ice asking them to stop this practice.
"This practice of misleading and creating the impression of local police really damages our local police efforts to keep our community safe and to build that trust," Bronin said.
Eyewitness News reached out to ICE about this incident and why these agents weren't wearing their department's apparel. However, the station has not heard back on Monday.
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