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San Jose Police Chief Against Blanket Immigration Enforcement

SAN JOSE (KCBS) - San Jose police officers need to focus on building relationships with the communities they patrol rather than indiscriminately enforcing federal immigration laws, Police Chief Chris Moore said Thursday.

Illegal immigrants arrested for serious or violent offenses could still face deportation, Moore said, but the potential loss of 300 officers due to budget cuts did not afford him the luxury of alienating whole sections of the city.

"Now more than ever, I need to focus my efforts in the community, on partnerships with the community so that they report to us crimes, so they don't become victims of exploitation," he said.

KCBS' Matt Bigler Reports:

Moore's remarks during a teleconference of the Police Executive Research Forum, a self-described progressive policy organization, drew praise from immigrants' rights advocates and condemnation from conservatives.

Barbara Coe with the conservative group, California Coalition for Immigration Reform, insisted that crime rates would drop if local police departments did not engage what she sees as selective enforcement of the law.

"If the immigration laws were being enforced as they should be, then a lot of these problems would not even be on the horizon," Coe said.

Moore said he wanted to address a distrust of the police department among undocumented immigrants that has led to some crimes going unreported.

"At the end of the day, we're not going to be able to succeed as a police department and protect our communities unless people are willing to talk to us," he said.

Poncho Guevara, executive director of Sacred Heart Community Service, applauded Chief Moore's inclusive philosophy.

"There's a deep yearning for having a really constructive relationship with the police department to make sure that they do actually live in a safe community," Guevara said.

(© 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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