Harold Hurtt, Former Phoenix Police Chief, Picked as ICE Community Liaison; Opposes "Field" Questioning of Immigrants by Cops

Harold Hurtt, a former Phoenix police chief, has been selected as a national community liaison for the U.S. Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

ICE hired him as the new director for its Office of State and Local Coordination in Washington D.C., where he'll work on "outreach and communication" between ICE and local cop shops, tribal governments, and other groups, ICE says.

Hurtt commanded the Phoenix force from 1998 to 2004, when the department had a reputation for gunning down too much of its citizenry. Stats at the time put Phoenix at the top of the list for police shootings, on a per-cop basis.

Hurtt became the first police chief in the nation to distribute Tasers, made by a Scottsdale company, to every officer in the department. By some estimates, the move cut the number of shootings by police in half.

After Hurtt moved on to serve as Houston police chief, though, a similar effort didn't work out. He left the position in 2009.

Here's quote from the ICE boss about the hire, (from an ICE news release):

"Chief Hurtt is a respected member of the law enforcement community and understands the concerns of local law enforcement leaders," said Homeland Security Assistant Secretary for ICE John Morton. "His experience and skills will be an invaluable asset to the ICE's outreach and coordination efforts. Partnerships with local law enforcement agencies and community organizations are essential to ICE's mission."

Hurtt is expected to start the new job next month, with a salary of between $180,000 and $200,000.

An article in the Houston Chronicle today paints Hurtt as no fan of something like Arizona's SB 1070, saying he's "steadfastly opposed" to cops questioning people about their immigration status "in the field."

But should 1070 go into effect without restraint from the court system, Hurtt apparently won't do anything other than make sure police acting as local immigration agents get help from ICE:

Hurtt said that in his new role, he will support local law enforcement agencies' decision to participate in any ICE program of their choosing, even if it involves questioning suspects on the street about their status.

"That's a decision that needs to be made at a local level," he said.

Of course, he means he'll support whatever decision local agencies make -- if those decisions survive the legal challenge by his bosses in the Obama administration.

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Ray Stern has worked as a newspaper reporter in Arizona for more than two decades. He's won numerous awards for his reporting, including the Arizona Press Club's Don Bolles Award for Investigative Journalism.