With President Donald Trump signing a series of executive orders on immigration that have alarmed Los Angeles officials, the Police Commission held a hearing today on the LAPD’s policy on working with federal authorities.
The Goal Was To Make Policies Clear
The hearing was not about creating or devising any new policies, but was
aimed more at making the police department’s policies clear while also
inviting representatives of community-based organizations to speak and air
Chief Charlie Beck appeared before the commission and reiterated the
department’s adherence to Special Order 40, a 1979 directive which states that
officers will not initiate police action solely to determine an individual’s
Beck Asserts That The LAPD Will Not Be A Deportation Force
Since Trump was elected in November, Beck has stated numerous times that
the LAPD will not act as a deportation force, and he repeated that sentiment
again to the commissioners.
“This is a time of great uncertainty on this issue — not because of
what the police department has done — because as I have said from the first
day, I will not change,” Beck said.
“You Have… A Very Stubborn Chief”
“One thing you have is a very stubborn chief, and I’m sure the
commission appreciates that some days more than others,” he said. “But I will
not change what we do in this respect, not only because it’s the legal thing to
do, but because it’s the moral thing to do, as well.”
Trump signed an executive order in January that threatened to cut off
federal funding to cities that do not fully cooperate with federal immigration
law, even thought the cities are not required by law to do so. The order was
blocked by a federal judge in April.
Fear Has Increased In Latino Neighborhoods
Despite the LAPD’s assertion it will not detain individuals based on
their immigration status, immigrants may still have new fear over interacting
with the department. One indicator is that the reporting of crime, and in
particular the reporting of sexual assaults, have decreased in Hispanic
neighborhoods this year, Beck said.
“Those things are of a great concern for us. We need reporting. We also
need people to come forward as witnesses,” he said.
“We Need Reporting”
Arif Alikhan, director of the Office of Constitutional Policing and
Policy for the LAPD, outlined the department’s policies on detaining
individuals suspected of being in the country illegally. Alikhan explained that
unless a federal arrest warrant has been issued for an individual, the LAPD
will not honor a detainer request by federal authorities.
Representatives of some of the community organizations expressed concern
that Special Order 40 is an old document in need of updating. They also said
that when the LAPD participates in joint task forces with the feds, it can end
up partaking in a deportation effort.
Some Say Order 40 Does Not Do Enough
“Special Order 40 does not do enough to distance LAPD from federal
immigration enforcement in this changing landscape,” said Jordan Cunnings, a
lawyer with Public Counsel.
Emmy McClain, a lawyer with the National Day Laborer Organizing Network,
spoke of an incident in November 2015 when the LAPD and agents from Homeland
Security raided a house party in South L.A. as part of an investigation into an
illegal “casitas,” or club run by a criminal street gang.
According to McClain, the raid resulted in nine people being deported
solely because of their immigration status, even though they were not wanted
for any criminal activity. They were detained by LAPD officers and
fingerprinted at an LAPD station before being turned over to agents with
Immigration and Customs Enforcement, McClain said, calling it an example of
“joint task forces run amok.”
Beck Reiterates Commitment To Immigrant Community
Beck called the case an “exception that proves the rule here. This is
not a commonplace practice, and when it happens, the Los Angeles Police
Department takes it very seriously.”
As for Special Order 40, Beck said he was open to updating the policy,
but also added, “To think that there is any other major city that supports
this cause like the Los Angeles Police Department — particularly Chicago, New
York and New Orleans — I love those departments but they don’t even come close
to the support of the immigrant community that we do.”
City News Service.
Photo by: danielfela