After initially saying he couldn't comment on a personnel matter, Sheriff Mike Reese now says that the three sheriff's deputies who shared information with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents would be in violation of the agency's current policies on cooperating with federal immigration officials.
The updated policy went into effect on January 31, the same day that several news agencies obtained the emails sent to ICE agents by the deputies through a public records request.
Reese says he was not aware that any deputies were communicating with federal immigration agents, until the emails went public.
"If I had known they were doing that I would have told them to stop," Reese says. "Before a complaint was raised, I wasn't aware."
The reports from the investigation into the deputies' actions found that they did not knowingly violate any agency policies, despite a state law barring local law enforcement agencies from aiding in immigration enforcement efforts. The deputies did not know about the law and had received zero hours of training on the appropriate level of cooperation with ICE, the investigation reports revealed.
Reese says that's changed.
Under the new policy, Reese says MCSO deputies may not reach out to ICE agents unless they are responding to a request for information from the federal agency. If ICE agents ask for information about someone in MCSO custody or under MCSO supervision, deputies may only share information that could be released to the public, he added.
"We wanted to be really clear with our employees," Reese says. "We created a bright line. We're not going to provide any information that we wouldn't provide to the public."
That includes instances where MCSO picks up undocumented individuals on felony charges or for violent crimes, Reese says. He says notifying ICE in those cases might actually subvert justice.
"I want to hold people accountable," he says. "I think it would feel to the victim of that crime that they were being treated unfairly if the person was simply deported."
Reese says he sent the new policy to every employee at MCSO and required each deputy to acknowledge that he had read and understood the directive. He also said he met personally with the deputies who had been investigated to make sure that they understood the new policy.