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Why Tucson Police dropped border enforcement grants

Effectiveness, community input were factors
2020-TPD leaves Op Stonegarden-cuffs.JPG
2020-TPD Leaves Op Stonegarden-roadblock.JPG
2020-01-23 TPD leaves Stonegarden-BP bust.JPG
Posted at 6:51 PM, Jan 23, 2020
and last updated 2020-01-23 20:51:31-05

TUCSON, Ariz. - Tucson Police leaders say they can take better care of the community without being in a controversial Federal program to work on border security.

KGUN9 On Your Side's Craig Smith has an interview with one of TPD's senior chiefs offering more detail on why the department felt it should step away from Operation Stonegarden.

Operation Stonegarden covers equipment and overtime when local law enforcement gets involved in border security work. Pima County is wrestling with how it participates and whether it should stay in at all. Tucson Police has decided Stonegarden just does not fit with TPD's priorities for Tucson.

Assistant Chief Kevin Hall oversees all TPD patrol functions. He says, "Policing changes case and the community changes fast and the expectations of the community change fast and what we found is that grant really didn't fit what we want to do with our police force today and what the community expected of us today."

Assistant Chief Hall says Federal standards for the Stonegarden grants wanted to measure Tucson Police participation by the number of arrests after a crime while Tucson wants to focus on crime prevention and deflecting people into programs designed to keep them out of trouble.

Years ago, Tucson Police told officers immigration enforcement is not TPD's responsibility. It's for Federal officers like Border Patrol and ICE.

“But the other issues such as drug trafficking human trafficking we do address, but we can do it in a manner that is not restricted by the parameters of this grant, and we can do it more effectively."

He says TPD will help, if an agency like ICE or Border Patrol needs assistance for something other than immigration enforcement but even before the decision to drop out of Stonegarden Tucson Police concluded fear that local police might enforce immigration was discouraging people from sharing information that helps police fight crime in the community.

“What we found is and when was fairly well documented through the Bureau of Justice Assistance, is that 50% of violent crimes across the country aren't reported. We believe that could possibly be higher here because people's fear that they could be reported to Border Patrol."

Assistant Chief Hall offers these statistics to show how much more Tucson Police achieved in their regular patrols and deployments compared to work done specifically under Operation Stonegarden.

2019

OPSG Total

TPD Total

OPSG % of Total

TPD not OPSG

Guns

12

1470

.8%

99.2%

Misd. Arrests

501

31,696

1.6%

98.4%

Felony Arrests

264

9759

2.7%

97.3%

Traffic Citations

1098

40,769

2.7%

97.3%

Assistant Chief Hall says Stonegarden grants amounted to maybe one percent of the Tucson Police budget and the strings attached to the money created administrative issues like officers struggling with old, high mileage patrol cars while new vehicles bought with Stonegarden money had to sit idle unless they were doing Stonegarden work.

He says Tucsonans will not see any change in their protection without that Federal money.