County Access to Fingerprint Database on Hold

El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa believes Governor Bill Ritter is preventing local authorities from tracking criminals who are in the U.S., and Colorado, illegally.

The journey from suspect to inmate involves a number of steps: delivery to the jail, followed by booking and at some point, fingerprinting, which is a fundamental piece of what's known as “Secure Communities.”

"It is something every community should have," said Maketa.

Essentially, the federally funded system allows an electronic cross check of fingerprints taken by law enforcement at a local level to those in databases collected by the FBI, and Homeland Security.

Currently, it's not allowed in Colorado.

"The person I consider the state leader, the governor, is setting a bad policy by not following through with the intent and spirit of our state law and allowing technology to agencies and jurisdictions that want it," Maketa said.

Maketa spent months fulfilling Gov. Ritter's request to get support from the public and Board of County Commissioners. He believes access to the fingerprint data-base would add a cost-free safety measure for communities where it is in use.

Those in favor believe the Secure Communities system will identify criminals within U.S. borders illegally in minutes. Those who oppose it argue the system will lead to profiling.

A statement from the Governor's Office to KKTV reads in part:

"The time we are taking now is allowing us to work with ICE and our local communities to address concerns and, if we decide to move forward with the program, to improve upon it."

Maketa thinks that simply puts more time on the side of those who would put communities in danger.

Read the Sheriff’s perspective by going to http://shr.elpasoco.com/, and selecting “Immigration Priorities.”

The full statement from Ritter’s office is below:

As we consider whether the Secure Communities pilot program is right for Colorado, Gov. Ritter felt it was important to seek out statewide public input and listen to the concerns that exist about this program. Yes, acting quickly is important. But acting responsibly and thoughtfully is more important. That's why it took the sheriff's association itself months to provide a letter of support.

It is extremely important for people to understand that in three years, the federal government is going to impose Secure Communities on all states, and states will have little or no chance at that point to modify or tailor the program to suit their individual needs. The time we are taking now is allowing us to work with ICE and our local communities to address concerns and, if we decide to move forward with the program, to improve upon it.

If we do decide to go forward with Secure Communities, it will be better for Colorado -- including law enforcement -- and our efforts might then be able to help strengthen the program before it is mandated and imposed on every state.

There are also some factual inaccuracies in the sheriff’s piece, including:

•Gov. Ritter never said or indicated he wanted Boulder or Denver or any specific community to go first. That’s just untrue. To date, El Paso, Arapahoe and Denver counties have said they would pilot the program if the state decides to move forward with it.

•There are a number of inaccuracies and omissions in the sheriff’s timeline, the most important of which is that the Colorado Bureau of Investigations’ computer system, which is necessary in order to link local law enforcement agencies with the ICE database, was not even capable of making that link until April 2010. So for the sheriff to claim we are dragging our feet is just ludicrous.

•The sheriff says that without Secure Communities, an electronic search of ICE records is impossible. Technically true, but without Secure Communities a manual search of ICE records is still possible and is done all the time. It’s done by phone.

•Despite the sheriff’s claim, Secure Communities is not a response to 9/11. ICE would object to this characterization.


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