In a meeting with the U.S. Attorney's Office in Portland, Washington County Sheriff Pat Garrett expressed his concern over a recent interaction involving Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents in front of the county courthouse.
Video footage captured by an American Civil Liberties Union legal observer dated Sept. 18 appears to show ICE agents in plainclothes approaching Isidro Andrade-Tafolla, who is Latino, outside the Washington County courthouse.
The sheriff's office confirmed that Garrett met in person with an assistant U.S. attorney on Thursday about another issue, but that he addressed the incident involving ICE.
"The sheriff feels that those kind of contacts exacerbate fear in the community and they actually lower trust for all law enforcement, not just ICE," said Mark Povolny, a public information officer with the sheriff's office, later adding, "Of course that's just the opposite of what we want people to do."
Andrade-Tafolla told media outlets that the agents failed to identify themselves when they approached him in front of the courthouse, and that they mistook him for another man. One of the agents showed Andrade-Tafolla a photograph of the man before driving away.
Povolny said the goal of Garrett's conversation with the U.S. Attorney's Office was to talk about how ICE agents interact with the community and to possibly move forward with changing how these kind of interactions are handled. That, at the very least, involves getting the agents to identify themselves. Povolny says it is standard practice at the Washington County Sheriff's Office for officers to be upfront about identifying themselves.
"One of the main goals for our sheriff's office is to be an agency that our community can trust and know that it's safe to come to us and make a report. And that has nothing to do with with what your status is," Povolny said.
"That's been the plan of approach for our sheriff's office for quite a while, and I think when we see incidents like this it just reinforces the need to make sure we're doing everything we can to build trust with everybody in our community."
The U.S. Attorney's Office confirmed the meeting.
"We have been in contact with Washington County Sheriff Pat Garrett," said Assistant U.S. Attorney Suzanne C. Hayden in an email. "We are aware of his concerns and those of the public as reported in the media. Media inquiries should be referred to ICE public affairs personnel."
This story has been updated.