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Bill seeks change in oversight of Utah’s strike force on immigrant crime

Lawmakers consider a proposal to transfer it from the A.G.’s office to the Department of Public Safety.

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Reyes said his office also is uniquely equipped to handle the types of cases the strike force undertakes, which can range from sex crimes to digital crimes to crimes involving multiple locations and jurisdictions.

"It makes the most sense [to keep it in the attorney general’s office]," Reyes said, "given the complexity and types of cases."

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But Greenwood noted that most strike force work is done by staff within the attorney general’s office, and moving to DPS could enable more participation by local and federal officers.

The Utah Chiefs of Police Association has opposed HB100, and in a letter this week asked Gov. Gary Herbert to withhold support until local agencies can weigh in.

"The SECURE Strike Force has been great to work with local law enforcement and we believe a move of this kind without any discussion among police chiefs is a huge political and law enforcement flaw," wrote association President Wade Carpenter, Park City police chief.

State Rep. Brad Dee, who sponsored the law creating the strike force in 2009, said criminal cases involving undocumented immigrants previously were divisive.

"The vision was ... we could be more cooperative across the state," said the Ogden Republican.

Wallantine said the strike force has lessened "tension in our immigration dialogue" by keeping law enforcement focused on building community trust to prosecute the most damaging criminals.

Greenwood said that approach would not change under DPS.

"The relationships will continue to be there. It’s just the coordination of the task force that’s transferred," he said. "These are professional people we’re talking about, whether in the DPS or the attorney general’s office."

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