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Southold officials work to bridge gap between police, immigrants

Police immigration policy and creating unity were among the themes Southold Town officials and community leaders discussed recently in Mattituck during a public forum series to promote understanding between law enforcement and the immigrant community.

At the Synergy Mattituck event, Southold Police Chief Martin Flatley discussed the general governmental orders that officers would sign and be expected to follow. The session was held Thursday at the hamlet’s Human Resource Center.

The general orders, which Flatley discussed with the town board in March, outlined the police department’s policy on immigration. The rewrite of the department orders generally indicates that officers will not assist the federal government on immigration enforcement, defining it as a federal issue instead of a local law enforcement matter.

“We don’t participate with federal government in immigration,” Flatley told those in attendance. “We are here as your local law enforcement . . . we want everyone to come forward if they’re a victim of a crime.”

Flatley also said the department will not honor Immigration Customs and Enforcement detainers unless a person has already been convicted of certain crimes, has been caught unlawfully re-entering the country after being deported or poses a risk to national security.

Solutions geared toward reducing hate-inspired bullying in schools and spreading information to residents about police immigration policy were also discussed.

While only a handful of people attended the meeting, including Southold Town Councilman James Dinizio and Town Supervisor Scott Russell, previous events in the discussion series have drawn as many as 100 people.

“I think I’ve learned more about immigration than I ever did before,”[from the meetings] Flatley said after last week’s session, adding that the gatherings have been productive in building trust between residents and law enforcement.

Southold Town Anti-Bias Task Force member Christopher North, who led the discussion, said the talks are necessary to unite the community.

“We need to constantly educate people, and the best way to love is to be loving,” North said. “We have to work on it every day of our lives.”


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