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Sheriff Determines Deputy Did Not Violate 'Fair And Impartial' Policy In Traffic Stop

The top of a report with a star-shaped sheriff's badge on it.
Chittenden County Sheriff
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Chittenden County Sheriff Kevin McLaughlin released a report Friday determining one of his deputies didn't violate a "fair and impartial policing" policy during a November traffic stop.

The Chittenden County Sheriff has determined one of his deputies did not violate a "fair and impartial policing" policy during a November traffic stop. That interaction resulted in a migrant farmworker being turned over to federal immigration authorities.

According to a report released Friday by Sheriff Kevin McLaughlin, Deputy Sheriff Jeffry Turner pulled over a speeding vehicle on I-89 in November and asked the four occupants of the vehicle for identification. Two of the occupants did not respond, and one passenger told him the driver was "here illegally."

McLaughlin claimed Turner then was justified in suspecting he was witnessing a criminal case of human trafficking, which led him to contact Border Patrol agents. Those agents took one of the occupants, 21-year-old Luis Ulloa, into custody.

More from VPR: Migrant Activists Allege Chittenden County Sheriff Deputy Violated Policy [Dec. 3, 2019]

In early December, the Vermont immigrant rights group Migrant Justice led a protest outside the sheriff’s office, alleging Turner's actions violated a department policy which requires law enforcement to serve and protect people, regardless of their immigration status.

At the time, Migrant Justice called for a “transparent” inquiry. However, McLaughlin indicated in his report no one in the car cooperated with the sheriff’s investigation.

McLaughlin also noted the department policy specifies that the sheriff’s office will not enforce civil immigration law, but says agents can enforce federal criminal law, including criminal border crossings. McLaughlin concluded that because Turner suspected human trafficking, a federal crime, he was justified in calling federal immigration authorities.

More from VPR: Fair And Impartial Policing: Is It Happening In Vermont? [Aug. 29, 2019]

In a written statement, a spokesperson for Migrant Justice said the group "strongly disputes" the sheriff's findings, and “unequivocally denounces the conclusion that Deputy Turner's conduct did not violate department policy.”

The group said it will seek “legal remedy,” as well as its own “independent investigation,” but would not specify who would conduct such an inquiry.

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