March 23, 2015. The Palm Beach Post.
WEST PALM BEACH — Two local police chiefs said Monday night they would be open to discussions with local community leaders about implementing policies that would allow undocumented immigrants without a driver’s licence to provide an alternative means of identification.
The issue of undocumented immigrants facing arrest for driving without a license and the arrests of juvenile offenders were the main topics as the grass-roots organization People Engaged in Active Community Efforts — or PEACE — held its annual assembly at the Palm Beach County Convention Center.
About 3,000 people attended the event along with various law-enforcement officials. Father Nestor Rodriguez told those attending that nearly 500 undocumented individuals in Palm Beach County were taken to jail in 2014 for driving without a license.
“We believe this a serious injustice,” said Rodriguez, who is the pastor at Saint Ann Parish in downtown West Palm Beach. “We want to stop families from experience the injustice of arrests and the pain that follows.”
The group posed questions to West Palm Beach Police Chief Bryn Kummerlen, Riviera Beach Chief Clarence Williams, Delray Beach Chief Jeff Goldman and Boynton Beach Chief Jeffrey Katz, asking each to commit to having their officers accept consular identifications in place of a driver’s license.
Kummerlen and Williams said they would agree to a policy provided that the identifications could prove a driver is a resident of the county. Kummerlen noted that the driver would still be subject to arrest, but could receive a notice to appear in court rather than be taken to jail.
Goldman and Katz declined to commit to the policy, saying they would need to receive more information. Sheriff Ric Bradshaw did not attend the gathering, but said in a videotaped message that his deputies would consider accepting the consular identifications on the condition that they prove that a driver lives in the county.
The chiefs were joined by State Attorney Dave Aronberg and School District Police Chief Larry Leon in facing questions about expending juvenile offender programs to those with more than one misdemeanor arrest.
“Because they’ve made some mistakes, there are children being arrested and paying the price for the rest of their lives,” said Darial Smith, the youth minister at St. John First Baptist Church in Belle Glade.
Aronberg and the police chiefs were asked to commit to policies referring all eligible youth to the the county’s Juvenile First Offender Program, and work with community leaders to expand the eligibility and diversion programs within state laws.
All agreed that they would.