Last month, a woman walked into the Nogales Police Department station, saying that she wanted to make a complaint about a police officer.
When she walked out, she hadn’t filed a report, but an NPD officer had told her that there was a warrant out for her arrest.
Despite the potentially troubling optics of the incident, NPD Chief Roy Bermudez said notifying the woman of her outstanding warrant had nothing to do with her request to file a complaint.
“It’s nothing different than (what) we do every day,” he said of the warrant check, adding that his department uses “due diligence in investigating every complaint.”
In this instance, however, NPD still didn’t know more than three weeks after she came in what complaint the woman wanted to make.
“I guess, once she found out about the warrant, she was upset. And she was going to bring (the complaint form) back, but to my understanding up to this point we haven’t received anything,” Bermudez said last week.
He told the NI that it’s “absolutely” necessary for officers to run a warrant check on everyone who comes to the station.
“We don’t know who these people are and we don’t know under what premise they’re coming in,” he said. “They’re coming into a safe and controlled environment. We’re letting them into our office.”
The misdemeanor arrest warrant for the woman had been issued in Cochise County for failing to pay a fine.
Police logs show that the Aug. 25 incident started at 2:19 p.m., when a woman asked to speak to a supervisor to make a complaint about an NPD officer.
An officer gave the woman a formal complaint form, which Bermudez said is standard procedure.
“They have the option of filling it out here, or taking it with them and then bringing it back at a later date,” he said, adding that “there’s no complaints that are turned back.”
The woman did not complete the form at the station, but was subsequently brought to another room where she met with a second officer.
That officer, according to NPD documents, told the woman that there was an active warrant out for her arrest.
She started to cry.
Then the first officer, who had given the woman the complaint form, stepped in and said that the warrant would not be served at that time.
The woman was eventually released from the police station and advised to pay the fine the next day.
Speaking on Sept. 17, Bermudez said that NPD had not received the woman’s complaint.
But he said that he doesn’t think the practice of running warrant checks serves to deter people from talking to the police. Officers do not automatically run warrant checks on people they interact with outside the station, Bermudez said, though they can do so at their own discretion.
After a separate August incident in which an NPD officer asked a driver about her immigration status after a traffic stop, Bermudez said that his department does not typically ask about immigration status out of concern that it could discourage residents from communicating with the department.
“There’s a connection that we’re making and we strive every day to build that communication and trust between our community and the police department, no matter who it is,” he said at the time.
But, speaking about the Aug. 25 case, he repeatedly asserted that warrant checks are necessary for officer safety.
“That’s what society has come up to,” he said, adding that “we need to make sure our officers, first and foremost, are safe within our environment.”