The Fairfax County Police Department has suspended an officer for detaining and turning the driver in an accident over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement on Saturday in violation of the department’s policy not to assist ICE with civil enforcement.
The driver lacked a Virginia driver’s license, so the officer who responded to the accident ran a Department of Motor Vehicles check and discovered that ICE had issued a civil violation to the individual for failing to appear for a deportation hearing, according to Fairfax County police.
The officer verified the ICE warrant and contacted the ICE agent listed as the point of contact, who came to the scene of the traffic crash. The officer gave the driver a ticket for driving without a license but continued to detain the individual until the ICE agent took over custody.
Fairfax County Police Chief Edwin Roessler lamented the incident and said the officer is being disciplined.
“This is an unfortunate issue where the officer was confused,” the police chief said, according to the Washington Post. “We have trained on this issue a lot. This is the first time we’ve had a lapse in judgment, and the officer is being punished.”
The officer has been relieved of all law-enforcement duties pending an internal investigation.
“Our police officer violated our longstanding policy and deprived a person of their freedom, which is unacceptable,” Roessler added in a statement. “Our county is one of the most diverse counties in the nation and no one should have the perception that FCPD is acting as a civil immigration agent for ICE. This matter damages our reputation and the longstanding policy that I have stated many times that our officers shall not act as immigration agents.”
The police department said ICE informed them that the driver was released after three hours with an ankle monitor.