Rantz: Seattle Police Department recruiting DACA recipients to be cops

Jun 16, 2024, 4:55 PM

(Photo courtesy of SPD via LinkedIn)...

(Photo courtesy of SPD via LinkedIn)

(Photo courtesy of SPD via LinkedIn)

Faced with an unprecedented shortage of officers, the Seattle Police Department (SPD) is actively recruiting recipients of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival Status (DACA) to become cops. It’s possible thanks to bipartisan legislation that went into effect on June 6.

Senate Bill 6157 allows DACA recipients to apply for civil service jobs across Washington State. These include police officer, firefighter and sheriff’s deputies. Prior to the legislation, they were prohibited from holding these positions.

The bill is getting renewed scrutiny after a LinkedIn job application post from the SPD for DACA recipients started receiving attention. The ad explains the SPD “is now accepting applications from DACA recipients! Apply Now!”

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Is it constitutional to hire DACA recipients for police jobs?

Seattle is not alone in hiring DACA recipients for police positions. Earlier in the year, the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) made the same move. They even altered its written firearms policy to allow DACA cops to carry a firearm while off-duty.

With new guidance from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), DACA recipients are allowed to carry firearms and ammunition if it’s part of official law enforcement officer duties. But any local agency hiring DACA recipients must reform their gun policies to make it clear that their DACA employees can carry firearms.

But the changes in policy and guidance leave open questions as to the constitutionality of the decision. Guidance from ATF isn’t forever binding, and it won’t change how a court uses the Gun Control Act should this legislation face challenges. The whole concept is also subject to changes with any new administration. And it’s contingent on DACA protections remaining in place.

With potential uncertainty, it could put DACA cops and their agencies in difficult and costly positions. Will a DACA recipient want to become a cop if their ability to carry a firearm is contingent on an agency not changing policy? It’s obviously not worth the resources to train if the policy suddenly changes under a new administration or via the courts.

Is it right for DACA recipients to become law enforcement?

There’s nothing inherently controversial about the decision to hire DACA recipients as police officers.

DACA recipients are allowed to work in the United States, though they do so under a renewable two-year work permit.

There’s also a need for new officers. Thanks to an alarming staffing crisis hitting departments like the SPD, agencies could use as many qualified applicants as possible. Based on the latest Seattle police staffing data available, only 424 patrol officers were in the department. Across all positions, there are 280 eligible for retirement this year. They need bodies to patrol the streets.

It’s true, however, to note the irony.

DACA recipients are in this country illegally and they’d be tasked with enforcing laws. But DACA recipients were brought to this country illegally through no action of their own. Even though a teen from 13-15 years old would have known what they were doing is illegal, it’s not a reasonable position to fault a child for following their parents into this country.

But the legislation has the potential problem of treating legal citizens unjustly.

Extra points for DACA recipients at the Seattle Police Department?

The City of Seattle has struggled with recruiting beyond dealing with the catastrophic defund movement, which demonized officers and scared off new recruits. But the Mayor’s Office hasn’t made recovery easy.

Under this new law, applicants may earn extra points for being fluent as a “native speaker” in a language (or languages) other than English. This gives an advantage to a DACA recipient that progressive hiring managers and agencies may use to reject an American citizen.

It would be unwise to offer this kind of preferential treatment when staffing is so dire. But it’s not hard to imagine how this could be used once staffing course-corrects. In fact, the Seattle Mayor’s Office has already shown an interest in socially engineering the SPD.

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City of Seattle looked to hire fewer white men, military veterans

Under strategist Ben Dalgetty from the Mayor’s Office, recruitment has struggled. Rather than seek applicants who are qualified, Dalgetty and other mayoral staff have sought a more diverse-looking department. But that means an SPD free from too many white men or military veterans.

In a March 2023 memo to SPD human resources staff titled “SPD Marketing More and Less,” Dalgetty asked for “less” images and videos of “officers who are white, male,” and “officers with military bearing.” In their place, Dalgetty asked for more “officers of color,” “officers of different genders,” and “officers who are younger.” And rather than reach as many possible applicants as possible, the strategy was to hyper-target black, Hispanic and Asian Seattleites with early marketing efforts.

After complaints from SPD, Dalgetty edited the memo several times. Moreover, the original memo was destroyed and not initially turned over via a public disclosure request by “The Jason Rantz Show” on KTTH.

Still, it’s reasonable policy

Despite the easy way to abuse this law, the policy itself is advantageous. It’s why all but one Republican in the Senate supported the bill.

Though it was adopted in a clearly unconstitutional way, it seems likely that DACA recipients are here to stay. If they’re interested in helping protect our communities, how can their employment be problematic? They’d still be subject to the other qualifications to become an officer or deputy. And they’d still be required to go through the same training.

The media (and the public) must ensure DACA recipients aren’t offered special treatment as a result of their status. If that happens, we should demand reforms. But short of abuse, that a DACA recipient wants to become a cop is something that should be celebrated.

This isn’t someone knowingly coming to this country illegally, jumping the line ahead of people who are waiting to be eligible the legal way. These are people who are trying to make good on illegal actions taken by their parents or guardians by giving back to the community.

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Rantz: Seattle Police Department recruiting DACA recipients to be cops