Faulty Lexipol policies expose police departments to costly lawsuits, ACLU-WA and NWIRP warn in letter to local law enforcement agencies statewide

News Release: 
Monday, January 22, 2018
The ACLU of Washington and the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project (NWIRP) are notifying law enforcement agencies in Washington about the settlement of a lawsuit in which the City of Spokane agreed to pay damages and attorneys’ fees to a man it unlawfully detained and held for immigration authorities after he was the victim of a car accident. Under the settlement, Spokane agreed to pay $49,000 in damages and attorneys’ fees.
Spokane’s policies were based on a faulty model immigration policy from Lexipol, a private, for-profit company that sells boilerplate policies to public safety agencies, such as police and fire departments, around the U.S.
Spokane’s Lexipol policy incorrectly authorized officers to seize individuals and extend detentions for purposes of investigating and aiding in potential civil immigration enforcement, unnecessarily exposing the City to liability, the ACLU-WA and NWIRP explained in a letter sent today to law enforcement agencies across the state. 
“This settlement puts law enforcement agencies around the state on notice that if they’ve purchased a Lexipol policy, they may be using a faulty product that exposes their jurisdiction—not Lexipol—to legal liability,” said Enoka Herat, Immigration and Police Practices Counsel for the ACLU-WA.
The problems with the policy are compounded by the indemnity clause in Lexipol contracts, which requires local jurisdictions to pay the costs when the policy is found unlawful. In other words, Spokane’s taxpayers are on the hook for the cost of the settlement, not Lexipol.
The Spokane Police Department has adopted a new policy consistent with the U.S. and Washington Constitutions, and has agreed to train its officers accordingly. Spokane’s policy now makes clear that police officers cannot question or detain individuals to enforce federal immigration laws, which they lack authority to do.
Lexipol is the source of policy manuals for the overwhelming majority of law enforcement agencies in Washington, according to research by the University of Washington Center for Human Rights.
The ACLU-WA and NWIRP are urging police departments around the state to update their policies, trainings, and guidelines to avoid similar liability.
“We can be a resource for any additional information you may need on these immigration-related matters,” the ACLU-WA said in its letter. “We can also assist in the drafting and development of policies that formalize an appropriate set of rules on these issues (e.g., policies that limit inquiries by police regarding immigration status).”
An annotated version of the Lexipol policy is available on the ACLU-WA’s website.