By Cherri Gregg
NORRISTOWN, Pa. (CBS) – There’s a new police chief in Norristown and he’s meeting with leaders in the Latino community this week to draft a policy the will help ease tensions between Latino immigrants and law enforcement.
“This has nothing to do with the pressure and everything to do with– it’s the right thing to do,” says Chief Mark Talbot, who joined the Norristown Police Department about a month ago. A 20 year police veteran, Talbot spent years in the Reading police department and most recently served as the director of the Bureau of Enforcement and Investigation.
He’s hoping to set a new tone when it comes to immigration.
“There are too many people that feel separate from the community and separate from the police,” he says, “in a very intentional way, the police department wants to work on that.”
Talbot met with members of the Latino community on Sunday, January 5th. The town hall meeting came after numerous attempts by Latino leaders who say they called for a stop to immigration holds or “detainers” where local police detain a suspect for Immigration Customs and Enforcement.
“For 48 hours that person can be held and for 48 hours ICE can come interview that person,” says Erika Almiron, executive director of Juntos, which has been working for more than a year to these detainers in Norristown. She says police used checkpoints to detain Latinos and many were deported.
“There was just wasn’t trust between the community and the police,” she says, “even victims of crime were feeling like they couldn’t call police.”
Almiron says she is one of the people that will sit down with Talbot to draft the policy.
“I think it’s a great step forward, we’re super excited,” she says, noting that there is a growing national grassroots effort to stop deportations on a local level.
Talbot declined to comment on past police interactions with law enforcement or on the specifics of the immigration policy that will be drafted, but says he plans to keep an open mind.
“If you are not behaving in a way as an organization to make your community happy — change,” he says.
The meeting could take place as early as Friday.