MIDDLETOWN, Ohio -- Middletown police will continue working with federal immigration agents when it's necessary, the city's top cop said Sunday.
But he added officers won't target or profile people who might be undocumented.
Police Chief Rodney Muterspaw explained some of his thoughts on working with minority and immigrant communities in a Facebook post, just a few days after Cincinnati symbolically and controversially declared itself a "sanctuary city."
The term "sanctuary city" has no legal definition, but it's often a label used for places that refuse to turn over individuals to Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or cities that just have welcoming resources or policies in place for immigrants.
Middletown isn't a "sanctuary city," the department wrote on Facebook. It does have a large Asian and Latino population -- people and cultures Muterspaw said weren't a part of the city when he first started in law enforcement.
"It is not just as simple as 'they just need to do what they are told' as some have demanded of me," he wrote. "It is about understanding what their culture is about and building rapport with those communities."
If Middletown police have a criminal suspect who's also in the United States illegally, Muterspaw said they'd contact "the proper agency to let them know who we have."
"Unfortunately, we are seeing people that are here legally go through constant 'proof of citizenship' questions every time they encounter law enforcement," he wrote. "We have to adjust and adapt to change."
To help, the chief said he's sending three officers to a course about racial intelligence from the Florida-based RITE Academy. Then they'll come back and teach other Middletown police what they learned.
The course isn't just about race, Muterspaw said, but helps officers learn about working with other cultures, classes and religions.
For example, the chief said a better relationship with the city's Latino community has helped solve some serious crimes.
"In the past, there was a struggle to get cooperation," he wrote. "Not so much anymore. It takes time but we are getting there."
Jorge Martinez, a Butler County immigration attorney, said he thinks Muterspaw is taking the right approach.
"The police, they have to find a middle ground of enforcing the law but also having a good relationship with the community so they can investigate crime," Martinez said.
In his Facebook post, Muterspaw said the police department also works with the chamber of commerce and the Middletown city manager's office to help at-risk youth and ex-prisoners find jobs. It's all aimed at the same goal of cutting crime, he said.
"Being active in our community doesn't mean we aren't busting bad guys, because the fact is MPD today is doing double the search warrants, double the arrests and almost double the call volume we did when I first came on - and with less people," he wrote. "We had 93 officers when I started, we now have 70. So we have to advance in our thinking and philosophy in what we do and how we do it."
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