A group of Oro Valley police officers sat down Monday to watch a training video designed to educate law enforcement about the state's controversial new immigration law.
"What we learned was that the whole country has this backward," Oro Valley Police Lt. Chris Olson told the group before starting the video.
Olson's words speak to the strong emotions the law has engendered since Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer signed it.
Olson said the image that police all over Arizona would be writing misdemeanor citations to immigrants for being in the state illegally was simply wrong.
"We have no immigration enforcement authority," Olson said.
The popular perception of the new law, which has been the cause of numerous lawsuits even before its implementation, is that local police would have greater responsibility in enforcing federal immigration law.
But police officials don't necessarily see any major modifications.
"I don't think it's really going to change the way we do business," Oro Valley Police Chief Danny Sharp said.
Sharp said officers in Oro Valley and across Arizona already have a hand in enforcing immigration law even before the law takes effect. When officers detain or arrest anyone whose immigration status is in doubt, they contact Immigration and Customs Enforcement or Border Patrol. Those agencies either collect the detained person from the arresting agency or instruct police to release the person.
That's not likely to change even if SB 1070 survives the legal challenges.
Much of the training video produced by the Arizona Peace Officer Standards and Training Board focuses on what police officers can't do. It stresses numerous times that officers cannot take into consideration a person's race or ethnic background when determining if reasonable suspicion exists that a person is in the country illegally.
"If an officer does not have reasonable suspicion without reliance on race or color, then reasonable suspicion does not exist," according to the literature provided with the training video.
Law enforcement officials from across Arizona appear in the video to help educate the officers who, come July 29, have to take into account the many challenges and strictures the law presents.
Absent from the video were any officials from the Department of Homeland Security and its agencies like Border Patrol or Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Federal officials were instructed not to participate in the making of the training video.
"We take the whole issue of racial profiling very seriously," said Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu in his appearance in the video.
Officers are instructed to end any inquiry about immigration status once a person is able to show one of numerous acceptable forms of identification. These can include state-issued drivers licenses, U.S. passports, military identification, and tribal identification.
"Officers will not be stopping people in the streets asking them to show their papers," said Lyle Mann, the executive director of AZPOST who also appeared in the video.
As is the case now, citizens of the United States will not be required to carry proof of citizenship or any other form of identification unless they are engaged in an activity that would require it, such as driving a car.
The video also places emphasis on consensual versus non-consensual contacts with law enforcement. The law doesn't require police to question crime victims or witnesses about their immigration status.
What happens to people in consensual law enforcement contacts has been the topic of some concern.
Tucson Police Chief Roberto Villaseñor has been one of the vocal opponents of the law and spoke to the potential risk to law enforcement efforts. He speculated that crime victims or witnesses who happen to be illegal immigrants would be less willing to come forward, confounding crime-fighting efforts.
"If people aren't comfortable talking to us, then we lose valuable information," Villaseñor said in the video.
The Tucson chief stressed that he fully intends for his officers to comply with and enforce the law once it's enacted.
Even in non-consensual contacts, including those that may include probable cause, police would be limited in what they can do.
"It's kind of enlightening that some of the things in the bill (SB 1070) that will become law have been ruled unconstitutional by the Ninth Circuit (Court of Appeals)," Sharp said.
The court has ruled that local law enforcement agencies can't transport suspected illegal immigrants who have federal civil warrants to jail or into federal custody.
Sharp said in such situations where law conflicts with court rulings, law enforcement would defer to the courts.
Local law enforcement may be bracing for lawsuits claiming civil rights violations.
"Individual agencies and their officers are between a rock and a hard place," Mann said. He said police agencies can expect a heightened level of scrutiny from the public and from activist groups who may want to test officers.
Villaseñor also thinks police should expect accusations.
"Without a doubt, we will be accused of racial profiling," Villaseñor said.
The Oro Valley Police Department, along with agencies across Arizona, plans to hold training sessions throughout the month.
The training video cost AZPOST more than $14,000 to produce.
AZPOST has all the literature and the training video posted on its website under the heading "SB1070 Info Center."
The website can be found at www.azpost.state.az.us.