LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — The chief of the Los Angeles Police Deparment said the reporting of crimes, specially sexual assaults, have decreased in Hispanic neighborhoods this year due to fears of deportation.
According to Chief Charlie Beck, 911 calls in the predominantly Hispanic Hollenbeck Division have dropped by 10 percent since the beginning of 2017.
“Those things are of a great concern for us. We need reporting. We also need people to come forward as witnesses,” he emphasized during Tuesday’s hearing with the Los Angeles Police Commission.
The hearing was aimed at making the police department’s policies clear while also inviting representatives of community-based organizations to speak and voice their concerns.
Beck 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 immigration status.
Since Donald Trump was elected President, Beck has stated numerous times that the LAPD will not act as a deportation force, and he repeated that sentiment again to the commissioners.
“I will not change what we do in this respect not only because it’s the legal thing to do because it’s the moral thing to do,” the LAPD’s top cop said. “Above and beyond everything else, I believe in morality in policing.”
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 though the cities are not required by law to do so. The order was blocked by a federal judge in April.
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.
He explained that unless a federal arrest warrant has been issued for an individual, the LAPD will not honor a detainer request by federal authorities.
“If the person is committing a crime, especially a state or local crime, we would take whatever appropriate criminal law enforcement action is necessary regardless of the person’s immigration status. No body is immuned from prosecution or arrest if they violate a criminal law,” Alikhan explained.
Representatives of some of the community organizations expressed concern that Special Order 40 is an old document in need of updating. They said that when the LAPD participates in joint task forces with the feds, it can end up partaking in a deportation effort.
“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 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.”
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