Last fall, Norristown residents, working with an immigrant advocacy group from Philadelphia called JUNTOS, began making public accusations that police had targeted Latinos.
At a meeting police officers organized in response, one officer said she’d witnessed colleagues threaten Hispanic suspects with making a call to immigration. The others expressed surprise and hurt at the accusations.
“We want a clean house,” Lt. Michael Shannon told WHYY/NewsWorks. “Unfortunately we’ve had the experience in the past where we might have had a bad officer or two and we’re just very diligent in dealing with that. All matters that come to the chief are investigated fully by the department.”
Norristown Council President Gary Simpson responded to WHYY/NewsWorks’ questions about specific allegations with a statement that “The NPD has and will continue to serve fairly, responsibly and professionally in protecting all residents of Norristown; and, we will continue to work with federal and state agencies as required by law.”
At a council meeting, when pressed by WHYY/NewsWorks about arrests made by Norristown officers, Simpson would not respond or elaborate.
Immigrants and attorneys say they have seen changes in recent months that make them optimistic. The borough has been sitting down to meetings, and leaders say they want to work with Norristown’s immigrant communities going forward.
The immigrants already arrested have moved on too, to immigration court.