Some Dalton residents say they want their local police department to enforce immigration laws.

That is frustrating, said Dalton Police Chief James Chadwick, who is perusing 670 surveys from city residents to help the police department develop a three-year strategic plan.

The U.S. Department of Immigration and Customs Enforcement is responsible for enforcing federal immigration laws. Dalton police officers are responsible for enforcing state and local laws.

“Whether or not they are here illegally, we arrest them on those charges,” Chadwick said. “Once they are convicted, (if they are here illegally) they are deported.”

Chadwick said he is concerned about the possible implications of Senate Bill 529 passed by the state Legislature, which would allow the state to enter into an agreement to have some local police trained to enforce federal immigration laws. The law will take effect July 1, 2007.

“There’s more room for errors,” Chadwick said.

He said one of the challenges his department faces is public perception.

“We are doing as much as we possibly can,” Chadwick said. “The perception may be that we are not doing anything.”

The surveys will tell department officials what the perceptions of the public are, Chadwick said. An officer is going through the surveys and tabulating the data.

Chadwick said the development of the three-year plan also includes an employee survey and a look at crime statistics.

Once the data is compiled, a committee of citizens, officers, supervisors and Chadwick will meet to finalize the plan, which is expected to be completed by the end of the year.

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