Carbondale school officer accused of racial profiling | PostIndependent.com

Carbondale school officer accused of racial profiling

CARBONDALE, Colorado – A statewide immigrant rights group is accusing Carbondale’s school resource police officer of using his position to profile local Latino students and their families for possible immigration violations and turning them over to federal agents.

However, Carbondale town officials and staff members in the town’s schools who work closely with Carbondale Police Officer Alvaro Agon have been quick to defend him.

An attorney for Agon also said he’s prepared to file a defamation of character lawsuit against the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition (CIRC) and its area representative, unless a public apology is issued.

In a press release sent out Monday, CIRC Rocky Mountain region organizer Brendan Greene alleged that Agon, 26, Carbondale’s school resource officer for the past 31⁄2 years, is also a liaison working with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents to identify undocumented immigrants.

“We believe Alvaro is using his capacity as school resource officer to investigate immigrant children and their families, whom he then turns over to ICE,” Greene said in the release.

Greene said that members of the Roaring Fork Valley student advocacy group Asociacion de Jovenes Unidos en Accion (AJUA) have been collecting testimonies for the past year from Latino families, providing evidence of Agon’s actions, he said.

Specifically, Greene accused Agon of targeting students who are Latino, or appear to be from immigrant families, and questioning them about their parents’ immigration status.

“We turned in 28 statements to [Carbondale Police Chief Gene Schilling] supporting our claim,” Greene told the Post Independent. “It not only sets a bad example for the students he works with, but it’s also hurting the reputation of his department.”

Agon’s involvement with ICE allegedly extends beyond Carbondale and has included operations in Basalt, Glenwood Springs and Rifle, the organization claims.

Recently, Agon was named as one of several defendants from area law enforcement agencies in a federal lawsuit that was filed in connection with one of the immigration arrests that occurred at the Strawberry Days carnival in Glenwood Springs earlier this year.

Greene said Agon’s alleged “double duty” as a school resource officer and ICE liaison creates a conflict of interest and a breach of trust with students in Carbondale schools, more than 60 percent of whom are of Latin American descent.

“This is having a chilling effect on immigrant and Latino student and parent participation in public schools,” Greene said. “It creates a climate of fear and mistrust among students and parents, damaging the overall education and learning environment.”

CIRC is demanding that Agon be immediately removed from his position with the Carbondale Police Department pending an investigation.

Agon’s attorney, Tom Adgate, said the allegations have already been investigated by the police department.

“These accusations are absolutely false,” Adgate told the Post Independent. “Chief Schilling conducted an exhaustive review, and the allegations are 100 percent unfounded.

“We intend to proceed with a defamation lawsuit against this idiot organization unless they issue an apology,” he added.

Chief Schilling declined to comment specifically on the allegations. A press release issued by the town of Carbondale late Monday afternoon stated, “Our school resource program and school resource program officer are strongly supported by the school community and the community at large.

“The town prides itself in supporting the existence of an ethnically and culturally diverse community,” the release continued. “The police department will continue to look into specific complaints of employees through our established policies and procedures.”

Sue Turner, a counselor at Carbondale Middle School, called the allegations against Agon “outrageous.” She said Agon is respected and trusted by the students and families he deals with.

“He’s the most unbelievable man I’ve ever worked with in the school resource officer position,” Turner said.

“He comes to the school dances and mentors our at-risk kids, is part of our diversity training, provides drug education. … I feel safe because he’s in our town,” she said.

Added CMS assistant principal Jennifer Lamont, “There are a million examples of how the community does trust him.”

CIRC’s Greene acknowledged that Agon no doubt has his supporters, even in the Latino community.

But he said others have had a different experience. Greene pointed to statements from the AJUA students who he said have had personal experience.

“Alvaro Agon asked my little brothers, 6 and 7 years old, if my mom or stepdad have papers,” Denise Soto, a student at Bridges High School in Carbondale, claimed in a statement that was included in CIRC’s press release. “He sat outside my house waiting to see who would be driving, in order to pull them over because they don’t have papers. He has tried to deport my parents. … He does not make me feel safe.”

jstroud@postindependent.com


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