CT police department hires DACA immigrant, only second such officer in the nation – and it’s raising huge questions

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The following article contains editorial content written by a retired Chief of Police and current staff writer for Law Enforcement Today.

WILLIMANTIC, CT- While a local Hispanic activist pickets and stages a hunger strike over a flag on the police department’s website, local police have hired an illegal “immigrant” to be a police officer in town. Confused? Yup.

The Willimantic Police Department announced on their Facebook page that they have sworn in four new police officers in that town, including Jose Gutierrez.

What makes the Gutierrez hiring so interesting? He is an illegal alien, having arrived in the United States by crossing the border illegally. However he falls under the DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) program implemented under the Obama administration.

 

We are proud to announce the swearing in of four new Police Officers.

Bayley Laughlin graduated from Framingham State…

Posted by Willimantic Police Department on Monday, January 4, 2021

Sources tell Law Enforcement Today that Gutierrez received some type of waiver from Connecticut Attorney General William Tong, allowing him to become a police officer.

First of all, this is not a criticism of Gutierrez. According to the post, he is finishing up his degree at QVCC (Quinnebaug Valley Community College), which is admirable.

He has been active in the community with the Citizens Police Academy and the Stuff a Cruiser program. According to the post, Gutierrez is only the second DACA recipient in the nation to be sworn in as a police officer and the first in the state of Connecticut.

His appointment as a police officer does raise some questions, however. First of all, as an illegal alien, he is not legally permitted to carry a gun in the state of Connecticut.

As a police officer, there is perhaps some exception to that law, however clearly he would not be able to carry off-duty and would have to leave his weapon at the police station. Connecticut state statute expressly prohibits illegal aliens from possessing handguns or getting credentials to do so (CGS §§ 53a-217c, 29-28(b) & 29-36(f).

This does raise the question as to why Willimantic chose to hire a DACA program participant as a police officer in the first place.

Does this not raise a question as to the judgment of such an individual, perhaps? Does it speak to the difficulty that police departments are currently having in finding qualified applicants? We aren’t sure. But clearly hiring a DACA recipient is out of the ordinary.

That said, the fact that Gutierrez is and has remained in the United States illegally could prove troublesome to his fellow officers. One would imagine that any arrests made by this officer could be subject to question by a defense attorney and a judge or jury might take his history into consideration in rendering a verdict in a case he might be involved in. Just a thought.

How comfortable will fellow officers be working alongside someone who entered the country illegally? All officers, including this one, swear an oath. Is such an oath rendered moot under these circumstances? 

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LET Unity

While all of this is going on, a Hispanic resident of Willimantic is staging a protest and hunger strike, complaining about the Willimantic PD having a Blue Lives Matter flag on its website.

According to The Chronicle, a local activist and former town official James Flores has been staging a protest and hunger strike off and on apparently since Christmas. Flores claimed that he had nearly been struck by a SUV that he said jumped a sidewalk and nearly hit him. Police were contacted and are investigating his claim.

Flores, who is black and Hispanic is continuing his hunger strike protest while wearing Black Lives Matter attire.

According to Flores, he wants the Thin Blue Line flag removed from the PD’s website because he claims the flag has been “hijacked” by white supremacists and claims that Willimantic police are fomenting distrust in the department by many residents in the community.

Referring to the flag image, he claims that it’s “too visible.” Flores set up a tent and says that he will switch back and forth between his car and the tent and said even a not-too-likely tornado or hurricane would stop his protest.

Flores, a former city council member says that the police department needs to “be an agency of unity and brings us together” but they aren’t, he says.

“There are a lot of problems in the police department and the major problem is denial,” Flores said.

He also claims the department doesn’t have enough minority members and says that drug testing should be mandated for the police department. This guy is literally all over the map.

So this apparently racist police department, full of “white supremacists” has just hired an illegal DACA alien, and this guy is still not happy.

“This is a crisis when the police department does not reflect the community,” Flores said. “That is a big problem.”

The town disputes Flores’ claims. According to Windham town manager Jim Rivers, there are eight Latino officers, two African American officers and five females within the department.

Finally the former chief, who recently left the department to return to his hometown, is Hispanic.

Rivers noted the department is in the process of trying to actively recruit minority officers, a task he said is a challenge.

During a meeting last week, the request to remove the flag from the police website was discussed, however the matter was tabled. An approximately equal number of residents spoke both against and in favor of keeping the image, including a number of police officers, family members and other police supporters.

Rivers said that the city is discussing the matter with members of the Windham-Willimantic NAACP and noted that the matter would be discussed later this month with the police chief.

“We have other things we’re working on right now, including a raging pandemic…and we’re trying to keep the wheels turning.

Rivers also wondered about Flores sudden sense of urgency about the image, with everything else going on. Probably just trying to feel important, we guess.

Rivers also said that Flores is being disingenuous with his portrayal of the image on his Facebook page, which he said shows a Blue Lives Matter flag with a swastika on it, which has clearly been co-opted.

 

Posted by James Flores on Saturday, December 12, 2020

“It’s an interpretation of what he feels the thin blue line flag means, but he made it look like that what they (Willimantic police) had posted,” Rivers said.

Rivers said that some residents have conflated the image on Flores page with what is really on the police department’s website.

Rivers noted that the Willimantic department is very active concerning racial justice activities, which he said is probably more than most departments in the state. Heck, they just hired an illegal alien.

“They work really hard at that and it’s heartbreaking to have Mr. Flores characterize that department in a manner other than that,” Rivers said.

He also denied that anyone from the police department has ever threatened Flores.

“If someone has evidence, bring it forward,” Rivers said.

Rivers claims that Flores thinks anyone who disagrees with him is threatening him, which is simply not the case.

“That’s not a threat,” he said. “That’s just bringing another viewpoint to the conversation.”

Flores definitely gives the appearance of someone with way too much time on his hands. 

 

I will participate in this activity and at the same time seek support to stop the growth of the MAGA in Willimantic CT …

Posted by James Flores on Sunday, January 3, 2021

Flores should be happy that the Willimantic PD has hired a DACA recipient. If that doesn’t smack of “inclusion,” nothing does.

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