After taking some time to reflect on this current issue, as Sheriff, I’ve decided that the Cheshire County Sheriff’s Office will not seek to enter into an agreement with the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency (ICE) to enforce federal immigrations laws. Furthermore, we will not participate in raids, stings or operations that are solely intended at locating an undocumented person or persons. Any representative of ICE requesting our assistance must have an active criminal warrant issued by a judge or must be actively pursuing a criminal investigation that relates to public safety for us to participate.
According to the Sentinel’s report on Rivera’s announcement Keene Police’s acting chief, Steve Russo has yet to comment on the issue, but his late predecessor Brian Costa‘s position was similar to Rivera’s, saying, “We have no interest going forward, nor do we have the resources for deputizing our officers as part of ICE to go out and seek illegal or undocumented immigrants…We govern ourselves by our mission statement”, which says KPD is “to protect life and property and to maintain order within the City while assuring fair and respectful treatment of everyone.”
It sounds like Sheriff Rivera is on the same page as Costa. In his excellent statement, Rivera continues:
In addition, we will not ask a person their immigration status or detain a person based on an administrative civil detainer that is not issued by a judge. As Sheriff, I do not want undocumented immigrants to fear the Sheriff’s Office, instead I want them to be able to approach and speak to any of my deputies without the fear that they will be turned over to ICE. If in the course of our duties we happen to come across an undocumented person we will handle each encounter in a way we deem appropriate for each situation…
If you are an undocumented person in Cheshire County and feel uncertain about approaching law enforcement for fear they will turned you over to ICE, feel free to call me, Sheriff Eli Rivera, at the Cheshire County Sheriff’s Office.
According to the WMUR report on Rivera’s policy, some control-freak politicians are butthurt over this. Good. Unlike those cowardly politicians, kudos to Rivera for having the courage to do the right thing and truly protect the people of Cheshire county from the evil hands of the federal government. It would be better of course if Rivera would also stop cooperating with the feds on other victimless crime enforcement, like the insane War on Drugs, but this is a BIG step in the right direction.
I’m glad to live in a place where law enforcement acts more human, more often, than anywhere else I’ve ever been. You’ve got Rick Van Wickler, Cheshire County’s jail superintendent who is also a longtime speaker at Law Enforcement Action Partnership, a compassionate group of mostly former police which you may remember as being previously called, “Law Enforcement Against Prohibition” until they expanded their mission to include other issues where police reform is badly needed, Van Wickler has been a constant presence in Concord at state house hearings about drug legalization, speaking strongly in favor of any efforts to end prohibition in New Hampshire. He also runs his jail much more compassionately than the supermajority of the others in the United States. Add to that, a relatively calm and approachable group of Keene police, and now this excellent news from Sheriff Rivera.
Thank you, Eli. You’ve earned my vote in the next election. The land known as Cheshire county in the Shire should be a sanctuary for all peaceful people. Your immigration policy helps us get closer to that ideal. Next step, NH seceding from the United States! Viva New Hampshire!
I was shocked to hear the news on WKBK earlier this week that Brian Costa, Keene’s police chief since 2015, had died in his home one week ago. I was even more surprised to learn he was just 46 years old. Unlike his predecessor, Brian treated me like a human being. He was kind, respectful, and approachable. Surely he and I disagreed on various subjects, but that never stopped him from being willing to work with me where we agreed. The few times I’d interacted with him in his too-short-a-term as police chief, I was impressed with his humanity and professionalism. Though I didn’t know him well, I wish I did.
Years ago when I moved here, as many activists do, I had an axe to grind with the police. The police, as the enforcement arm of the state, were obviously the bad guys. However, as one of the original Cop Blockers, (Badge #5) out in the streets as often as I was, it didn’t take me long to begin connecting with the Keene police as fellow human beings (instead of mindless statist automatons, which is easy for us libertarians to think about police if we don’t know them). The most memorable early paradigm-shifting encounter was my ride-along with KPD’s Shane Maxfield, nearly a decade ago.
At various different activist events in Keene, (the home of Cop Block) I encountered Brian Costa on multiple occasions, who prior to becoming chief was one of KPD’s two captains. However, due to him being a captain, his responsibilities were more management than they were patrol, so our contact was fairly limited at that time.
Imagine my pleasant surprise then, when one day shortly after Brian’s appointment as Keene police chief, I was standing out in Central Square, distracted by something on my phone. As I looked up from my device, there he was right in front of me! Brian was dressed in his full Keene police uniform, as any other patrol officer would be. He explained that he’d seen me from his walk downtown and he wanted to introduce himself.
I’ll always remember that about him. I was struck by how humble he appeared. Not only was he not above walking the streets like any other KPD officer, but that he would take time to come over and say hello was really impressive. I was happy to meet him officially and grateful to be treated like a human being by KPD’s chief for the first time in years.
Then, early in 2016, Brian called me out of the blue and asked me for help. There was a bad batch of heroin that had been hitting the streets and leading to overdoses. He had reached out to me as the publisher of Free Keene (Keene’s most popular blog and a Google news source), hoping that I would help get the word out about the bad batch of drugs. Of course I would. Though I’m against the war on drugs and it was Brian’s job to enforce it, we found common ground in the goal of harm reduction. I told him I’d get on it, thanked him for thinking of me, and immediately published this article about the bad dope. When I share goals with someone, despite our differences, I’m willing to work with them to accomplish our common goals. This builds bridges between people on opposite sides of other issues, increasing the likelihood of further communication and a growing mutual respect. Brian understood this, and he earned my respect by being a decent person.
Now, he’s gone from this world, and WAY too soon. Whoever is chosen as his permanent replacement has some BIG shoes to fill. I really wish I could have gotten to know Brian better. I feel like I missed out. (more…)
As part of a growing trend around the country, Keene city councilor Philip Jones made a recommendation to the Municipal Services, Facilities and Infrastructure Committee on Wednesday to paint a blue line down the center of Marlboro St in downtown Keene. This effort “would serve as a reminder that they (Keene Police Department) always have the support of the local community.”
Most attending the hearing spoke favorably of the service provided by KPD but there were some concerns over the precedent this request would create; what over city departments and organizations would want their own personalized line painted in the street next?
As the only dissenting voice at the hearing, I explained my concerns over this “every cop gets a trophy mentality.” Recognition should only be given to those who have gone above and beyond and never handed out simply because you wear a special uniform. This blue line creates a statement that “all” police should be recognized as heroes regardless of their performance.
The request was ultimately postponed until next hearing in order to gather more information regarding the final cost and equipment needed.
A City Council committee postponed making a decision on a proposal to paint a blue traffic line down Marlboro Street to show appreciation for Keene’s police officers.
At a meeting of the municipal services, facilities and infrastructure committee Wednesday night, Vice Chairman Randy L. Filiault said city staff need more time to answer questions about the proposal’s cost and research how similar projects have gone over in other communities.
The proposal came before the council last week after Ward 5 Councilor Philip M. Jones filed a memo asking that city staff paint a blue line down the middle of Marlboro Street to show support and respect for the services provided by members of the city’s police department. (more…)
According to new Keene Police Chief Brian Costa, the holiday weekend saw multiple heroin overdoses in Keene and Western Massachusetts from a batch of heroin allegedly branded “Hollywood”. Please get the word out to anyone you know that may be a user to beware of the Hollywood brand.
Kudos to Brian for taking the time to reach out with the news this afternoon. I support harm reduction, and getting the word out about bad drugs can accomplish that, while arresting users can increase the harm to their lives. Hopefully we’ll see Keene police doing more informing rather than arresting and prosecuting in the future.
Inconsistency in heroin quality batch-to-batch is a consequence of the black market created by the war on drugs, which leads to accidental overdose. If heroin were legal, as it was a few generations ago, then the purity would be lab-controlled. No one has to worry about overdosing on aspirin, unless that’s their intention.
I look forward to the day when heroin, a useful medical drug in many ways, can be sold legally through people who care about quality and their customers. A day when people who are addicted to drugs aren’t afraid to seek help for fear of being prosecuted and imprisoned by the state.
Until that day, I’m happy to assist Keene police when they are doing something helpful. Further, thanks to Brian for treating me like a human being, unlike his predecessor.
Meghan Pierce of The Union Leader covers the growing resistance to the militarization of Keene’s streets with the article in today’s paper:
KEENE — Thanks, but no tanks. That’s what some residents are saying in opposition to a city plan to purchase an armored vehicle for emergency response.
An outcry resulted after the City Council accepted a $285,933 Homeland Security grant in December — without a public hearing — to buy a LENCO BearCat Special Missions armored vehicle. Now the BearCat’s fate awaits the City Council’s final decision, expected at its March 1,7 p.m., meeting at Keene City Hall.
The city’s reconsideration of the grant got national media attention, including an article in the Huffington Post, sparking thousands of comments online about the role of the federal government.
Mike Clark, a 27-year-old handyman currently facing a criminal mischief charge in Keene — and the son of the sole Keene council member to vote against accepting the Homeland Security money — told the Huffington Post he has had encounters with Keene police and was “roughed up” both times.
“The police are already pretty brutal,” Clark said. “The last thing they need is this big piece of military equipment to make them think they’re soldiers.” (more…)