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Ariz. officer's role in anti-immigration law video prompts inquiry

12:25 PM, Jul 21, 2010   |    comments
Courtesy USA Today
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By Michael Ferraresi - The Arizona Republic

The video has the feel of a confessional.

Phoenix police Officer Paul Dobson appears apprehensive, his voice filled with uncertainty, as he offers his opinion about Arizona's controversial new immigration law known as Senate Bill 1070.

"This law will make me feel like a Nazi out there," said Dobson, a Squaw Peak Precinct patrolman with 20 years on the force.

"I have a great deal of contempt for it, I'm very emotional about it," he said in the three-minute clip posted to a non-profit group's Facebook page.

Dobson's participation in the video produced by California-based Brave New Foundation prompted an internal investigation that would likely result in a written reprimand or minor form of discipline for granting the online interview without supervisor approval, according to police. The case is pending final review.

The officer's union representatives argued that the case created a double-standard if Phoenix Police Chief Jack Harris provided testimony on SB 1070 as part of a federal review of pending lawsuits to block the law from going into effect July 29. The law makes it a state crime to be in the country illegally.

Dobson was the lone Arizona resident to respond to Brave New Foundation's online request for interviews with people impacted by the new law, which he recorded at his Valley home via Skype.

The Latino political advocacy organization included Dobson's interview as an example of the impact of Arizona's new law on everyday residents if officers are required to ask a person's legal status during lawful stops, when practicable, when reasonable suspicion exists that the person is the U.S. illegally.

The video remains on the Facebook page for Brave New Foundation's online community, Cuentame. Viewers are encouraged to watch Dobson's testimony and then sign a pledge to boycott Arizona.

Axel Caballero, who co-created the video for Cuentame's "Do I Look Illegal?" campaign, said he and others were surprised at Dobson's characterization of the state law as racist.

"It was amazingly striking," Caballero said. "I didn't think he would use that strong of language because of the cautiousness (around the issue)."

Phoenix Law Enforcement Association board member Ken Crane cited Dobson's case in a letter written last week to city officials asking for an internal investigation into Harris.

PLEA, the union for more than 2,400 rank-and-file officers known as a driving force in the lobby behind SB 1070, claimed that Harris should be investigated for going public with opposition to the law without the city's approval.

Phoenix City Attorney Gary Verburg ruled earlier this week that Harris was within city and police department policy in filing his declaration in U.S. District Court in Phoenix.

Verburg said PLEA "confused" Harris' declaration with the filing of a lawsuit. In a separate legal opinion earlier this year, Verburg cautioned Mayor Phil Gordon from filing suit against the state to block the new immigration law. He said the mayor was unable to do so without City Council approval.

"The allegation here is not comparable," said Sgt. Trent Crump, a Phoenix police spokesman.

"To think that an organizational leader doesn't have the right to represent the organization is absurd."

The Arizona Republic

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