State police departments push back against report claiming they aid ICE

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NORWALK -

The American Civil Liberties Union alleges some Connecticut law enforcement agencies are sharing residents' location information with Immigration and Customs Enforcement, but many are denying those claims.

Among those named in the ACLU report is the Norwalk Police Department. The Norwalk police chief says the report implies an agreement between his department and ICE, which he says is not true, and if it was going on, it was unknown to him.

"We use a license plate technology ... through a vendor that's used by many, many agencies across the nation and here in Connecticut, and most of us submit to a centralized database for that information," says Norwalk Police Chief Tom Kulhawik.

The ACLU says immigration agents have been tapping into that private database of license plate numbers to track down people who may be in the country illegally.

Eight Connecticut departments were named in the report, including Westport, Fairfield, Trumbull and Stratford.

The executive director of the ACLU of Connecticut released a statement saying, "This is the latest example of why Connecticut needs a multitude of safeguards to take control of police surveillance and limit local law enforcement's cooperation with ICE."

Kulhawik says it's the expressed policy of his department to refrain from assisting with federal immigration actions. He says, while the license plate technology is a valuable tool for investigations, his department will look into the situation.

"We do not enforce immigration laws and we will be today working with our vendor to determine how we can protect that data," says Kulhawik.

The Westport Police Department released a statement, saying in part, "The license plate reader system in no way provides the officer information as to the immigration status, race, gender, sex, name of the person operating the vehicle, or the owner information of the vehicle, nor does it record any of this information ... Throughout the country these systems and databases have proven themselves to be invaluable tools to law enforcement."

The Fairfield Police Department also offered a statement, saying, "While there has been some scrutiny as to the privacy rights of individuals, the license plate readers do not provide the officer with race, gender, ethnicity, or immigration status from the information provided by the registration plate ... The Fairfield Police Department takes privacy rights very serious and seeks to find a balance between ensuring people's Constitutional rights, and the use of the LPR data to solve crimes and maintain the security of our community."

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