Charlie Pardo

Basic Interview Metadata

Interview Text and Audio


Officer Charlie Pardo is the Hispanic/Latino Liaison Officer in the Community Relations Unit of the Chapel Hill Police Department. Pardo has served with the Chapel Hill Police Department since 1998. He was born in New York City, but grew up in Puerto Rico and attended college in North Carolina. Pardo has been instrumental in fostering a positive relationship with the Hispanic Community in Chapel Hill. He works closely with community organization, education and outreach, and victim services. In 2007, Pardo received the El Centro Latino Award for his outstanding service and support of the Latino community. The interview begins with a discussion of Pardo's background and how he came to his position on the police force. Pardo also talks about his duties as the Hispanic Liaison Office and the language barriers offices in the field have to deal with.



Rebecca Messinger: Ok, This is Rebecca Messinger interviewing Officer Pardo at the
Chapel Hill Police substation in University Mall. It's about 9:10 and it's 4/8/11. Good morning
Officer, how are you?
Charlie Pardo: Good morning. I'm doing fine
RM: Ok, just to start off, just some background, where are you from? And how did you
decide to pursue a career in law enforcement?
CP: Ok, I was born in New York City, my grandpa was a Spanish immigrant, came to the
US from Spain. And my parent, when I was a baby after I was born in New York moved to
Puerto Rico, my mom was from Puerto Rico and—or is from Puerto Rico and her family. So I
grew up in Puerto Rico with having close ties to New York City because I have a lot of family in
the New York City area. And when I turned 21 and I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do
with my life, other than playing beach—beach volleyball and surfing and all that cool stuff that
you do when you grow up on an island. And at that point my parents had divorced when I was
young and my dad was living up here in North Carolina. And I decided to come up here and go to
college, not really knowing what I wanted to do. I came and went to a community college first
and got a degree in Bus Admin and it just kind of seem—seemed like it was broad enough.
And from there, transferred to East Carolina University. And at ECU I was pursuing my
four-year bus degree when I happened to pick up my RA's books who was studying criminal
justice, And—and started reading through them and found it to be really interesting. And that
kind of shifted my focus from bus admin to law enforcement. So I changed years and pursued a
degree in criminal justice and at that time I started really getting interested in fed law
enforcement. I was interested in the FBI, secret service and so forth. And we—I actually had a
career day at the university and were several fed agencies came and spoke to us and we were able
to talk to the agents individually and kind of get a feel for what, what those careers had to offer
and at the time, the FBI told me that I could—I was definitely a perfect candidate being bilingual
and bicultural, having a four-year degree. That they—that I should pursue at least two, two to
three years in local law enforcement to kind of build my resume up before I applied with them.
So with that in mind I graduate and I enrolled in the police academy over at Wake Tech
Community College. And began the application process halfway through the academy, with
different local police agencies, with Chapel Hill being one of them. When Chapel Hill offered me a job, I was really excited. I had—I was very familiar with Franklin Street through my college days. So, that's—that's for me, that's what Chapel Hill was,
was Franklin Street. We would come up here and hang out and you know go to the clubs and stuff
and have a great time. And I got a job with Chapel Hill PD and started knowing a little more
about Chapel Hill and that population and so forth. And still with the focus of going back and
pursuing a fed career at some point. Within my first year here, I started dating my wife and we—
she's from Raleigh and she's a Spanish teacher. Just kind of—-we loved the area, even though we
live in Raleigh, we really like this area. And decided I was going to stay put. I really enjoyed
actually working with the Chapel Hill Police Department because I was the first bilingual officer
at the time—there had been other bilingual officers that had come through. I believe that there
was a guy by the name of Reggie de Mateos that was from Puerto Rico as well and he is now
with the Secret Service. So we have had—Chapel Hill PD has had several officers come through
that have moved on to do things that, that what I wanted to do, to move on to federal careers. We
just had two officers last year that went with federal agencies as well. But at the time when I came here back in '98,1 was the only Spanish speaking officer, which allowed me to pursue—to do, get involved as a rookie officer in a lot of things that I
probably wouldn't have. Like you know, for example, working closely with the Hispanic
community serving as an interpreter in the booking process and traffic stops and things like that,
assisting victims. I was involved in a homicide investigation in Carrboro as a rookie officer that
involved Latinos, which we later found out was not a homicide, so it was really helpful the fact
that I was able to communicate and really find the facts. Because we had actually arrested
somebody, and charged him with homicide and later found out that it wasn't homicide, that is was
more of an accidental situation. So, I guess that, that's what made me so excited about my
opportunities here was the fact that I was able to do so many different things from the beginning.
And, like I said, back in 1998 when I started with the police department, I started seeing
while working DWI checkpoints a large number of Hispanic being arrested for DWI and once I
got out of field training and I was on my own and I was kind of able to think for myself and dint
have a field training officer over my shoulder, I felt there was a strong need to educate our
immigrant population on motor vehicle laws and, you know, the expectation in this society. When
you come from a different country, whether its Mexico, El Salvador or anywhere else, on how to
better assimilate to the American culture and, and understand what your rights are and what the
law is and what the expectations are. So, after about three years on patrol, I applied to what is the
Community Services Unit, which is the unit I'm with now. And, and that role I served at and has
continued to serve as the Hispanic Liaison Officer. And basically what that means is that I—I am
available to, you know, not only interpret but assist our Hispanic population in their own
language. And, you know, understanding the, the, the daily expectations of you know of
following the law, and understanding the law and what their rights are and that we are here to
serve everybody equally. And so for—so back in '98 I, I started meeting with groups and doing a
lot of trainings so to speak, lectures, and you know, DWI issues, the no, you know, no drinking
and driving, wearing a seatbelt, having a driver's license, how to obtain one, and that sort of stuff.
And I'm probably rambling, and you probably had other questions.
RM: No, this is perfect, you actually answered my next question, so perfect. And kind of
going along with that, what would your, what would—how would describe a typical for your
position. Like what would you normally do on a day to day basis?
CP: Ok, well in my current position, and it evolves, it has evolved since '98 to now, whereas I don't only work with the Hispanic community, I have a lot of other duties that I do, but I love that part of my job and I think that's a very important part and its important enough to the
chief, to the chiefs, I served under three chiefs now, that they always found a way to put me in a
position to make me accessible to the community. That's the main reason I'm here at out
substation at University Mall. When I was in police headquarters, I felt like people were a little
more hesitant—and when I say I people I mean the Hispanic population—in coming in to speak
with me at police headquarters. It's a little more intimidating for anybody to say I'm going to the
police department than I'm going to the mall to speak to a police officer over there.
So, my day, my day-to-day, one of things I will say I love about law enforcement is that
my days are kind of different every day. As you can see since you've been sitting here, I've had
different phone calls. So the second phone I got involved a domestic situation involving a
Hispanic family. And right now, there's a lady that's at the police department speaking to our
crisis unit about a situation she's having with a—the father of her child. And that's the kind of
calls they get me involved in right away. And you know, I'll make a phone call and I'll talk to
this man and kind of get to the bottom of it, see what the situation is, explain to him that if
continues this harassment that charges could be filed and so forth. And maybe resolve the
problem, a problem like that. But my typical day, I come in the office, I'm you know—get the computer going. I start
looking at reports from last night, if it's a Monday I'll look at all the reports from the weekend.
And a lot of what we do is, through this unit, we follow up on property crimes. So I'll take out the
property crimes that occurred in my area that I'm assigned to, and I'll follow up with those
homeowners on if there were home break ins, or car break ins, or larcenies or whatever the case
may be. And after I do that, I also look at any cases involving Hispanics that will probably need
follow up, if they haven't been assigned to me already because a lot of them immediately a
supervisor will assign, assign those to me for follow up as well. We work very closely with the
merchants; we do a lot of crime prevention training. I'm the team leader for our hostage negotiations team , so a lot of time, I'm here listening
to the radio because at any given time we can have something happen and will have mobilize the
team and you know our SERP team and our negotiations team. So, I mean, that's just a few
things, I teach in the academy, whenever we have police academy, I, I—there are certain topics
that I'm able to teach. Also teach in our citizen's police academy that we run, about twice a year.
And I serve, I represent the police department in many diff committees, one of them
being Comunidad Juntos Hispanos, which is CALDO, which is, in English it means, the Orange
County Hispanic Affairs Committee. And we meet once a month and basically that's, it's a group
of representatives from different organizations from Orange County that in some way or another
serve or work with the Hispanic population. And then I'm also a member, represent the police
department in the Triangle Rapid Response Team, which is a human trafficking group. And that
one—we meet at the FBI headquarters in Cary, so we work with the FBI and Raleigh PD, Durham
PD and other organizations, there are some churches and some shelters and so forth. There's
immigration attorneys that are a part of that group also. And we all meet as a regional team to
figure out and have a game plan, and this is a fairly new group, probably been around for about a
year so we are still working on some ideas on what to do and how to handle, if we get a call
involving human trafficking, and make sure that we are able to connect those people with
services. And then from the law enforcement as well, go after, prosecution and so forth.
One thing I tell people is that law enforcement has evolved a lot. We—I consider ourselves social workers with a badge, and I know many cops don't like that term and I was actually having this conversation with another police officer from another agency, when I went to
East Carolina University, the school of criminal justice was under the school of social work and a
lot of our classes involved social work classes. And I really believed that what we do out there is
problem solve and you know we've learned throughout the years that we need—we can't do it
alone. We need to work with the schools, we need to work with the churches, we need to work
with the university, we need to work with everybody in the community to, to problem solve. And
that way, we're kind of a full service agency. Typically, you know, officers would go after the bad guy, arrest the bad guy and that's
the end of the, the situation for them. But we know that the victim's issues are still out there,
lingering. So you got to make sure that, you know, you're offering that support and that at a
minimum connecting people with the right services. And we have an in—we are the one of the
few agencies in the state that has an in house crisis unit, which they are social workers and they
do a lot of our victim assistance and follow up.
RM: What would you say the biggest obstacle is for officers in the field interacting with
Hispanic and Latino peoples?
CP: Definitely the language barrier, I mean that would be the number one. And then you
have also cultural barriers, not understanding why, you know, why people react in certain ways.
And to, and to help with that, we have had many cultural awareness classes. Some of them
mandated by the state, the state has come a long way, and they have incorporated in our yearly
and service training cultural awareness classes dealing with, with all kinds of different cultures,
with African American, with, you know, minorities, with children, because children you know
they are their own culture in itself too, you know, teenagers and so forth, Hispanics and so forth.
And to deal with the language barrier, we are fortunate that we have access to the AT&T
language line in our patrol cars, so tech has also, since I started in '98, technology has come a
long way as well. And you know, now we have things to like that, that you know if an officer is
in the middle of a, of a chaotic situation so to speak and, and needs to really figure out, you can
always find a child or somebody that can interpret with you, but that's not ideal. I mean that's
okay to get info that you need right away but it's nice to have access to a language line or
preferably a bilingual officer. I 'm not—I don't work 24-7 but I do, I mean I have been called out
in situations where something pretty serious, we had another pretty situation where we had a
possible homicide which the person ended up not dying, so. But they had three or four people in
custody and you know these people weren't communicating, or at least, you know, sometimes
you have people that say "well I don't speak English" and then once you bring a Spanish
speaking officer their English comes back real quick, and you know. So, I think that's the
major—the biggest barrier.
RM: And how does the AT&T language line work?
CP: Personally, I've never used it, because obviously I speak Spanish, and that's the
language we encounter the most. Even though we are encountering people of all backgrounds out
there now. We're seeing a lot of folks from Burma in the area now as well. And actually, my
partner Mark and I have done little presentations with kids at an apartment—a local apartment
complex that were from Burma, but the parents didn't ever get close to us, they kind of watched
from far away. But I believe that the officer just dials a certain number and we have a pin number that
we that we offer because obviously there is a charge for the call when you make the call, and they
request an interpreter for whatever language they need, or they hand the phone to the person and
let them know what language they speak. Because a lot of times, you know, the person can't even
tell you what language they speak. To give you an example, I've been called out to interpret for a
Spanish speaker and the person ended up being somebody from Burma in one occasion, in
another occasion it was an Egyptian. So the ofTicerjust assumed by looking at them and not being
able to speak to them that they were Spanish. Because they had—they looked a certain way, and
"oh they look Spanish so they probably speak Spanish" so it was interesting.
RM: Do you think that there is a significant immigrant population here? And why do you
think immigrants are settling here in Chapel Hill?
CP: I think there is definitely, I would—I don't know numbers, I couldn't give you
percentages or numbers but I definitely, from, from going out to calls, and driving around the
community and, and interacting out there, there is a huge Hispanic population. Definitely. And
why they settling here, I just think it's just a great place to live, why wouldn't you want to settle
here in this area. You know, the same way I came to North Carolina to go to college and never
went back and even though I miss a lot of things about Puerto Rico I don't even call it home
anymore, because I've been here over 20 years, so this is home, my children were born here and
I'm raising them here and so forth. It's just a great place to live. And I think Orange County and
Chapel Hill specifically, it's very friendly toward immigrants and people tell us that. I had in—a situation where I had to call ICE, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, for an individual who is just a pretty bad guy and he needed to go and the victim told, the parents of
the victim toke me, we know he is undocumented, and you know if that helps in any way. And I
said, you know that, that can help. And I explained to them, I can make a phone call and if you
really want this person to stay away from your daughter, and he had done some awful things to
her, I said, you know, we can get him detained and deported. And we are also going to charge
him criminally for the things he has done. So to give you an example, you know, I, I made a
phone call and they could've believe it—they said you're from where? And I said Chapel Hill
police department, and he said, "You're calling us?" and I said, "Yes sir, we need your services."
And we starting kind of started joking about it from, from one agency to another because he says
you know, you guys never call us for immigration stuff and I said, no, you won't get many calls
from us. But in this case, this person is bad and this person needs to go. You know, And without jumping ahead to probably one of your questions involving 287(g) I will say that's what that, that law was put into effect for, was to deal with gang members,
and serious criminals that, that were coming into the country illegally and were being deported
and then coming right back. So that was the main purpose, and that's what I explain—and I'm not
a 287(g) exert because we don't really, we don't use it so to speak, its more for sheriffs
department function. One that processes folks. But I guess we'll talk about that when that
question comes up.
RM: No, that's fine, that actually that brings me to my next questions, how, how do you
define 287(g)?
CP: Again, you know, I don't consider myself an expert in it, what I understand about the
287(g) is lie what I just told you, it was put in place by a federal government to help local
agencies deal with the undocumented, or I don't like to use the word illegal, but undocumented
population that was committing crimes in the United Stated. So, you know, I've been through a
lot of trainings with the FBI and other agencies where we talked about the MS-13, La Mara
Salvatrucha, which is a Hispanic gang. And, and other gangs and they're more predominantly in
larger cities, you know, Charlotte, Durham. And the 287(g) allows officers to process once they
arrest somebody for a crime, they have to be arrested for a crime, and they go to the jail, their
fingerprints are analyzed through a database that is somehow connected with ICE, with
Immigration and Customs Enforcement database, and if they find that this person has come into
the country illegally, was detained at any of our border entries at any given time, and their
fingerprints are on file, and a lot of times their pictures are on file. This one example I gave you earlier, they had a picture of this guy when he was thirteen. And he was now like 21, he had been in the country that long. And you know, he started
committing crimes against this young lady and that's what got his, got him under the microscope
so to speak. Maybe he would have been okay if he hadn't done that. So that's how I define it, it's
a tool to deal with folks that are coming to commit crimes, es—specifically more gang members
and so forth. And it allows local law enforcement to be able to check and verify that, whether
those folks are documented or undocumented.
RM: In our class, we have learned about, in NC specifically, counties that have
implemented 287(g) have enforced in different ways. How would you, what do you think the
motivations are for different counties to implement 287(g) like inconsistently. From one county to
the next, it's a little different.
CP: It is.
RM: What would you say the motivations are?
CP: You see, I can't speak for those counties. And that's a tough question, [pause]. I
guess, you know—if they feel like they might have a large undocumented immigrant population,
it may be a way to kind of deal with that. I don't know. I know in Chapel Hill we don't. If we
stop somebody, regardless of whether—we won't know if they are undocumented or not because
we are not going to ask them first of all. And we had a situation a couple of years ago that, that
kind of brought all this to light. In our agency, where an officer stopped somebody for a mv
violation and when they ran their name through the computer, through our computer, it came
back that they had a detainer, an ICE detainer, which we quickly—and those still come up, I
mean ICE puts detainers on people, but it's a civil process. For overstaying their visas. So the
officer at the time, seeing they had a federal detainer there, he arrested the lady, brought her into
the police department and contacted ICE. And at that point, I don't remember exactly what
happened, but I know that after that incident occurred, we reviewed our policies and we have an
internal policy where if you have criminal charges for somebody, you will arrest and you will
take them to the Orange County Jail and then the Orange County Jail will process them, and like
they process anybody else who comes through the jail, you will get your finger—your picture
taken, and your fingerprints will be taken. And they—and those fingerprints may or may not, may
be matched, may be looked at and compared thought the Immigration and Customs Enforcement
database. Now I don't if that's something they do automatically, or if that's something that, that
once they put them into the comp system, they're matched and looked at in every case or not.
And like in, like I said, it's more of, it's more of a sheriffs department function, because 287(g)s
are housed, that program is housed at sheriffs offices. And whoever runs the jail system.
RM: One of the issues we've learned about have been traffic stops and, where officers in
287(g) are asking individuals if they were born in the United States or not, and when the
individuals respond no, that tips them off to start deportation proceedings and turn them over to
ICE. Is this a part of the standard procedure, asking a person where they're from or is this
specifically for 287(g) counties?
CP: It's part of our booking sheet to ask people where they're from. An arrest sheet will
have that information on there. Typically, we don't ask, and I think the main reason we don't ask
is that the whole political issue involving undocumented people. But it is a part of the booking
process, you know, asking people where they're, you know, where they were born. I mean
there's a box in the arrest sheet that has a spot for that. And it—I believe it says resident, whether
they're a resident or not, you check that box and so forth. So, to answer your question, it's a part
of the booking sheet, it's part of the legal question they can ask. Now what they're doing with
that information, it's different. You know, if they're using it to profile somebody whether they're
going to detain them or not because they may be undocumented or not. In my view, that's wrong,
but that's, you know, different agencies have different policies.
RM: Since 287(g) has been enforced differently from county to county, how do you think
that affects the relationship between the immigrant of Latino population and police enforcement?
CP: Oh, it clearly affects that relationship. Definitely.
RM: How so?
CP: Well, people don't trust law enforcement. People will feel like—and you know that's
exactly what we didn't want to happen in chapel hill, is that, if I have a victim of a crime, we
want them to be able to come to us and report that ( ) without feeling like, you know, they are
going to be deported or that they are going to be victimized in some sort of way. And we still get
those questions, and we still get, you know, folks who to go El Centro Hispano with some
problem, and then they'll call us, and consult me and say, hey Charlie we have this person here,
and they're having this issue but they're afraid. And I'll be honest with you Becca, I can't make
promises of what the outcome is going to be, and I'm very clear about that. One thing that I—that
I am is honest. I can't tell somebody, oh, they won't—not going to get deported, they're fine,
because I don't know, I don't know what's going to happen once they go to jail, to the—you
know, Orange County's Sheriffs Office. Or wherever, I get calls from Alamance, I get calls from
you know, from Durham. Once, once the community knows there's a Spanish speaking police
officer here that they can trust, they'll call me. And, and it's funny because I had a lady yesterday that called me, and she, she's trying to
pursue a U-visa, I'm sure your familiar with those. And so she needs police reports, past police
reports. And she called me and she said well I had this domestic incident in '08 and it happened
in Chapel Hill, and I said well do you have the report number and she said yeah. And she gives
me the report number, and I'm looking it up and it says no match, so and I said are you sure it
happened in Chapel Hill because that number is not coming up? Well, it's actually Carrboro, and
I said well if it happened in Carrboro, you have to call the Carrboro police department; I wouldn't
have that report in my system. But they felt more comfortable talking to me about it and they feel
like maybe I can get that report for them instead, of you know. And I gave her a name of
somebody in Carrboro and Carrboro is going to work with them. But it definitely affects the relationship and, and you know, that it's—all I can do is tell people I'm here to listen to you, I'm here to help you in which way I can, if you commit crime
I'm coming after you, too. You know, and I'm honest like that, don't expect preferential
treatment. You know, I've had situation where we arrested gang members for committing crimes
in Chapel Hill. And these two, these three guys I'm thinking about most recent, was from
Durham. And once they found out that I was Hispanic, that I spoke Spanish, they were expecting
that I would be on their side. And I clearly told them in my interview, I want no association with
you whatsoever, you are a thug, you are a criminal and you know, we don't have any use for you
in our town. And you know, then they kind of got upset and I heard one of them call me a name
or whatever, and you know, I don't—I've been called names a lot as you can imagine in my line
of work. You know, I stay professional and I do my job to the best of my ability. But you know, there's no place—we don't need it, we don't need to import thugs. And that's what I tell the Hispanic groups when I meet with them. I say, guys we have enough
criminals here that are born and bred here, we don't need to import criminals. I said, so, if you
know that there's criminal activity going on in your neighborhood, if you somebody that is
committing criminal activity then you need to let us know so we can handle that. So that way, that
will be less heat in your neighborhood, as, as, as we call it. You know, less cops are going to be
coming around and it's not going to be making you nervous because we are getting rid of the bad
guys. But you know, it clearly affects it, so.
RM: For, I know that Carrboro and Durham will recognize the marticular consular as a
legal for, of identification for people, whether it be like a traffic stop or accessing social services,
and that there's a law proposed at the state level to prevent them from recognizes matricular
consular. Do you think that will affect Chapel Hill at all and how do you think that law if passed
will affect the relationship again between law enforcement and the community?
CP: I can't speculate, you know, that would be a question more for our police attorneys
and we defer a lot of that, you know, I get a lot of question I have to defer to them to see, because
a lot of it is policy. But obliviously if it's state law, it's state law. If its state law, we have to
enforce state law. If state law says we can't accept a certain mode or type of identification, we
can't. And then again there is always officer discretion. You know our officers typically, if a
person does not have any form of ID, it's hard for them to not to make an arrest if they have an
arrestable offence because you don't know if people are telling the truth of who they are. That's
why having a good identification is important. There are many situation that—let's say, I'll give you an example, if you get stopped and
you're driving without a license, your license is suspended that's an arrestable offense whether
you're an immigrant or you're a US born. Many a times, officers will write a citation for that if
they feel like they have you know, good enough identification on that person. Hey will, you know
if they'll ask, ask you for your name and date of birth and where they live and i run in the
computer and you come back, that comes back accurate and whatnot and you know, and I believe
you then I can use my officer's discretion and write you a ticket. If, if I can't have—if I don't
have any way to figure out that your telling me the truth of who you are then I have to make an
arrest so I can get fingerprints on file and that kind of stuff. So it may—it makes things a little
harder. It will be interesting to see what happens with that law. But I, I would think that in some
way or fashion it's going to affect Chapel Hill as well, because you know, we can't be, you know,
we can't not enforce state law. You know, we can create certain internal policies, we are not
going to this, we are not going to do that, but state law is state law. It's like, you know, folks, that
we recognize as human beings that there are people out there driving without licenses because
they, they can't get the license because they don't have a social security number. And we have to
cite them or we have to arrest them, because it is the law. And then what happens when those
individuals get into traffic crashes, and hurt somebody else, or they get hurt themselves.
You know, and I, I explain to people. I had a gentleman that came in, and he said, you
know I got this ticket and I was in a crash and the person hit me and why did they write me a
ticket. And, and I'm like, I don't know, that doesn't sound right, well why did they right you a
ticket? And somehow through the conversation you know I said, well you do have a valid driver's
license right? And he said no, mine was suspended—I mean expired and I'm not able to renew it
because they want a social security number. So at one point he did have a valid driver's license
with he got with his ITIN number when those were accepted. And now that he doesn't have a
social security number he can't renew his license so he, his license is expired. And I said well you
don't have a valid driver's license, then you shouldn't be on the road that day. So when, when
you get into a collision with somebody, you have no rights at that point, you know, to make a
claim. And then he understood, and he said, oh, so even though they hit, I'm at fault. And I said
yeah, because your car shouldn't even had been that day. And I said, and that's not just something
against immigrants, that's anybody. I mean, I see a lot of, you know, US born people that are driving without licenses. And,
and the state is about to get a little tougher on that, because, and I just saw it on the news the other
day that some legislation to make the penalties tougher for people driving without licenses.
Because it's just—it's a slap on the wrist. And we used to have a, and I guess we still do, I don't I
don't patrol anymore so I don't stop people for motor vehicle violations, but we used to have a
pro-arrest policy. And that was a blanket policy indicating that if somebody was caught driving
without a license, driving while a license revoked, that you would arrest them, simply because we
had to send the message that you need a license. If, if you keep constantly getting a little slap on
the wrist and there's no true consequences, what are you going to do? You're going to go to court
and drive without a license to court and leave court and drive your car without a license again, so.
RM: Why do think other jurisdictions have chosen to participate in 287(g)? What do you
think the advantages are?
CP: I'm sure there's some funding involved, there are some things that are above my
rank. You know, administrative issues. I know that, that the jail gets federal funding and I know
that the jail gets paid more per federal prisoner that they have in the jail. And, that's something
you can double check with them. But I have heard. And when they're housing federal prisoners,
regardless of whether they're undocumented folks or whatever, anybody that's housed there for
the federal government they get paid a lot more per inmate. You know, so, so I'm not saying
that's the only reason they do it, but that's a big reason, is for federal funding.
Also, you like to have a good a relationship with the federal government. Right now, we
have one of our officers working with the US marshals. So what they do, is they, they come in,
we provide an officer that we're paying for, we're paying his salary, he's still a Chapel Hill
officer but he is on the US Marshal task force. And he works with other officers from other
agencies, and when we have fugitives, when we have people out there that, that we need to find,
they help us and so its additional resources that you get by working nice nice with the federal
government, so it boils down to that. I think it, clearly there is a problem with, again, more so
with gang members that are undocumented and that's the root of what, why 287(g) was put into
place. I mean we have a lot of human trafficking going on, drug trafficking going on, and you
know, we, we've seen an increase in criminal activity, look at what, where, everything that's
happening with the cartels in Mexico. All that spills over to the United States.
And typically, you know, what happens is that a lot of these laws affect the law abiding
citizen. You know, the mom and pop that, that crossed the border to provide a better life for their
family, or, or trying to get away from a civil war in their camp—in their country or whatever the
case may be. These laws affect them more than that, you know, the criminals are going to be
criminals. You know, it's like when you put more restrictions on firearms for you citizens, that
affects you and I more. You know, now you can't get a gun because you have to go through all
these hoops and red tape and whatnot. But the thugs are going to have guns anyway. You know,
it's just the—it's just the way it is.
RM: Why do think Orange County has chosen not to participate in 287(g)?
CP: I think it's just a political thing. I that, at the end of the day you know, as police—as
police officers, and deputies, we work for the community we police. And if the majority of the
community we police is, feels a certain way, then that's kind of the way you police. Yu know,
again, even—you still have to enforce state and local laws, state and federal laws. But you know,
there are certain things that this community politically embraces that, you know. That you kind of
have to police in that way. Does that, is that make sense?
RM: Yeah, would you kind of apply that to other counties that have chosen to implement
CP: I think so, that if there's more of support from the residents and so forth, yeah. That's
kind of the route you go, because, and especially with the sheriffs office. I mean it's political,
and they're political, the sheriff is voted, voted in. And so the, the sheriff is going, is going to
police to a certain extent based on how his constituents want him to police.
RM: Could you explain, I don't know if you're familiar very much with Secure
Communities, would, like how you explain and why do we, from, to my knowledge we have
Secure Communities at Orange County, so how would—why do you think that is?
CP: Isn't Secure Communities very similar than the 287(g)?
RM: Yeah, from my understanding, it's when you run the fingerprints, it has access to
ICE, whereas before, without Secure Communities you wouldn't have access to federal records as
much, I guess.
CP: Yeah, and I think it's just another spinoff of the 287(g) basically. And again it's more
of the sheriffs department duty. And I, I think it boils down to federal funding and, and just
keeping, just like the word implies itself, just keeping our communities safer and look for those
serious criminals that we need to deal with. I mean I've seen a lot of people go through the
system, you know, that, that may or may not be undocumented, charged with DWIs and things
like that, which are pretty serious offenses as well, but they're not—they don't get deported.
When you have somebody committing home invasion, or trafficking in large amounts of
drugs or kidnappings or rapes or something like that, then you're going to look at them a little
harder and I think that's when Secure Communities comes in, it's just kind of, you know,
looking at those more hard core criminals and, and if they are undocumented then they may be
able to deal with it, you know, once they serve their time, getting them out of the united states,
you know sending them back to their country of origin.
RM: And do you think immigration, as a federal, as a federal issue, do you think it should
be enforced at the local level?
CP: Again, you're asking me my personal opinion. I don't know, that's a tough question,
I really sit on the fence with that, [pause]. I wouldn't want to see a community where you're
stopping people and asking them where they were born, so if it's going to be done like that, no. I
think that once somebody is arrested for a serious crime, you should be able to look into their
background. Does that make sense? But I don't, I don't want to live in a country where you have
to carry your passport in your pocket, you know, to prove where you're from. Or because my
son's name is Diego he's going to be finger, you know, pointed. And he is—his name is Diego,
and he is as American as can be but he is proud of his Hispanic heritage as I am. So, I wouldn't
want him singled out because of his name, or because he looks a certain way, or whatever, you
know. I mean, that's just not, it's not right and it's not the type of place you want to live in, you
know, so.
RM: Earlier you were talking about how as a part of your work, you help to educate the
Hispanic community here on the laws, could you tell me a little bit more about that? How do you
go about planning these events? I also with a Know Your Rights group, with a UNC student
group, it's called Linking Immigrants to New Communities and I'm a part of the Know Your
Rights committee and we put on some Know Your Rights forums at Abbey Court Apartment this
semester. So I guess I'm just curious about your process, how you go about doing that, and what
kind of topics do you cover?
CP: Well, and I will be honest with you, because of the, the many different hats that I
wear, that's not something that I'm out there seeking out. I basically, I make myself avail—I try
to make myself available as long as my schedule allows, whenever I'm invited to come speak to a
group. And when, back in, I guess, mid to early, early to mid 2000, when driving licenses were a
big issue, I would get a lot of requests to come to speak to people on how to obtain their license,
and once they obtain their license, how not to lose it, you know. And that kind of stuff, and I had
seen those requests for speaking engagements or whatever you want to call them, kind of dwindle
away because that the main concern for people, was how to obtain and how to maintain or keep
their driver's license and there were a lot of motor vehicle type questions and so forth. And ever
since the law changed where people could not their license with and ITIN number and they need
a social security number, basically, it's really simple, if you don't have a social security number,
you can't get a driver's license and if you don't have a driver's license you can't drive. So that
pretty much the end of the presentation right there. You know, so, that was the majority of
requests I would get were, were involving driving issues. But, you know, I get a lot of folks that come in here and talk to me about different things. I'll—I've met in the past with people at St. Thomas More, I've, and I've talked to the whole
congregation, you know, 6—600 people sitting there. And then I've made myself available in a
private room on the side to just talk to folks. One thing I don't like to do, is give legal advice and
a lot of people want legal advice, I'm a police officer, not an attorney. So that's something that
I've got to be very careful with, and that's what you know, I've—. When you're a police officer
and I go with my wife to a part somewhere or whatever, and you meet new people and they, oh,
what do you do? You know, I'm a police officer, immediately you get cornered. A lot of times, I
don't even—I'll say something like I work for the town of Chapel Hill, because as soon as they
find out that you're a police officer, then people want to ask you, you know, on time, you now,
this happened to me and. I mean there's so many cop shows and stuff, and people, that's where
they get their information about what we do. And you know, policing is really different
depending on what jurisdiction you're working and so forth. And there's Hollywood police and
then there's the real world, and you know it's kind of tough in that way. But yeah, but like I said, I make myself available to talk to groups. I've had—I've been invited to talk to ladies at EL Centro Hispano, and actually one was a, when it was a previous
location, when it was El Centro Latino. And just talked to them about domestic violence issues
and where to go get help and when, when is it appropriate to file a report, what are your rights.
That kind of stuff, you know where, people feel like if they—if I make a police report, my
boyfriend or my husband is going to be arrested immediately and definitely that's not the case.
But if you do make a police report and you press charges, then you know, you can't kiss and
make up and then the charges go away. And we have that happen a lot, so you know. And tell
them about counseling and about other options that are out there as well. And, so different things
like that.
RM: I've been, throughout this project, I've actually completed interview with two
immigrants in the community and they expressed to me that they feel very comfortable with the
police here in Chapel Hill and a few of them said, Oh yeah, I know all of them. What kind of, of
like, efforts is the police department making to kind of get to know the community and facilitate
this atmosphere, of like mutual knowledge, and that everyone's comfortable with the police.
CP: I think that we—I mean, we really handpick our folks. And this is my opportunity to
brag about our officers a little bit. But, but we do have great people. And our officers are friendly,
our officers like to talk to people, I mean, you see them up on the Franklin Street area, you know,
engaging the public you know and talking to folks. So I think a lot of it is we are very
approachable in that way. And we're encouraged, we're encouraged by our administration to, to
make those contacts, to make those, you know, to, to create those relationships. Right now,
whenever we have a community watch group meetings that we are invited to, we'll have meetings
where we'll have more officers than community members because then the chief, well, one of the
chiefs will come, you know, one of the lieutenants will come, you know, one of us or two of us
will come from our unit. Then they encourage patrol to come out because they want our patrol
officers who are out there taking the 911 calls to get to meet some of these folks in the
communities they're policing, and, and to get to hear some of their issues and concerns firsthand
from their own mouth. And a lot of times you'll be surprised you know, somebody's concern
might be something really simple that we can really, will—something really simple we can make
them feel a lot more at ease and so forth. You know, we're encouraged to, we can drive through the neighborhoods with the
windows down and say hi to people. And give the kids stickers, and start building that
relationship. And something like a little sticker to a child is something that they remember. You
give a kid a sticker, and they will remember that police officer gave me a sticker and when that
kid turns you know, 16, 17, 29 years old, they want to be cops, or at least they have a very
positive image of what police—what policing is. Because a lot of times people don't have—. The
only time a person has contact with the police is, is probably negative. It's either they are getting
stopped by a police officer for a motor vehicle violation or something bad has happened in their
life where, you know, and, and where the police need to come. So, you know, with that said, I think we really reach out and try to make those kind of contacts. And you know I go to all these meetings to, so that people know that hey, Charlie is a
Spanish speaking officer, he's Latino and, and you know, I tell people if you have anybody that
needs to speak to me or anybody that you know, call me. You know, we, I have a very close
relationship with the orange co rape crisis center. And you know the same thing with family, and
that's been throughout the years. And even with turnover in staff and everything, as soon as
someone new comes in or whatever the case may be, we say hey, I'm, you know, I'm the
Hispanic Liaison Officer, and their like, oh, well I'm the Hispanic Outreach Coordinator, or
whatever the case may be and you know, we make those contacts right away. And you, you know
we have an atmosphere of treating everybody with respect. And I think when you do that, when
you treat people with respect, whether, whether they are a victim or your arresting them and
processing them, you still treat them with respect and you get the same thing back. So, you know,
kind of build our relationships like that. We have an open door policy here, you know, people walk by. Yesterday I must have had
three or four different walk ins. You know, to include a man from El Salvador, that came in and
had a phone number and he said, you know I got a phone call that my brother has been arrested
and, in New York, in some small town in New York, I can't remember the county now, but
anyway. And he said, and I can't—I can't get in touch with anybody, I don't know what to do. So
I looked up online that sheriffs office in that county, and I made a phone call, I said, do you have
such and such there. Oh yes we do. And I said, you know, can you tell me—I have a family
member here—can you tell me what they've been detained, and it was actually and immigration.
And he said, all I can tell you is that he is being held under immigration issues. And, you know,
that's all the information he could provide. And I was able to relay that to this man, at least
know. And I said look, and I printed it out, I said look this is where he is, and all they were able
to tell me was that he as detained for immigration issues. And I said, is he undocumented and he
said yeah, and I said well something happened where he got caught and detained and more than
likely he will probably be deported and sent back home. And you know, and he, he knew. A lot of
times they know more than they are sharing with you. And he said, I told him, why is he going
out there, why is he hanging out, you know. And I don't know, I said, this—. But at least I gave
him the peace of mind where he knows where his loved one is. And they come here, you know
when—. And last week, it was a loved one who got in a crash in Virginia and he was in the
hospital somewhere and they didn't know. So you know, a lot of times it's just helping find that
information, so. A lot of my work comes from word of mouth, you know. People just, you know,
a friend told me about you. And I'll get a phone although you can just walk in.
RM: What are your hopes of the future of the relationship between the police department
here and the community, do you think there's still some areas we need to work on, or do you just
hope to continue foster the positive relationship?
CP: I really hope that we continue to foster positive relationships. I'm also really realistic,
you can't please everybody. There are people in this community that they could do without
police, you know. I had one lady one time a couple of years ago, I was walking out of the mall. I
had my gun on me, you know. And, and she said, oh can you know, there's a police officer, and I
stopped to talk to the little boy and you know, and acknowledge him a little bit and so forth. And
she said, can you turn sideways, we don't like g-u-ns, you know. And I'm like how weird are you
lady, thinking to myself. You know, but that's, that's the mentality some people have, that we
don't like g-u-ns, she wouldn't even say guns. You know, tool of the trade, a carpenter has a
hammer, a police officer has a gun. I hope I never have to shot anybody, but, how can I protect
you or protect myself, the bad guys have them, you know, so. How—like I said, we're, we're right not looking at a whole new strategic plan and we have a new chief. Great guy, grew up in Chapel Hill, went to Carolina, loves his community, you
aren't going to find anyone who loves Chapel Hill more than he does. And, and you know he—
we are all working together keep fostering this great relationship. [51:01 mark]