Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Tragedy Causes Review of LAPD Policy

Seventeen-year-old Jamiel Shaw was a Los Angeles High School student and football star. Last month, someone who thought Shaw was in a gang gunned him down near his home. The Los Angeles Police Department reports that the suspected gunman was a member of the 18th Street Gang, and possibly unlawfully in the United States. Jamiel's father asked the L.A. City Council to overturn Special Order 40 -- at least for gang members -- a guideline that keeps LAPD officers from asking about the immigration status of people they've arrested. To read and hear the story on this case, click here.

This story is a very sad one.  my heart goes out to the Shaw family.  However, effective law enforcement will suffer if the local police enforce the immigration laws as well as the criminal laws.  The reason that the LAPD -- not known for being soft on crime -- has its current "don't ask, don't tell" policy is to ensure that all residents (undocumented or not) feel comfortable in cooperating with the police.  This is essential to effective policing and law enforcement.  Whatever their immigration status, witnesses and victims must feel that they can provide information, report crime, and otherwise work with local police.  If they fear local police, fewer crimes will be reported, witnesses will not report crime, and the job of local police will be even more difficult than it currently is.

P.S.  According to the L.A. Times (April 11), LAPD officers would be required to report gang members found to be undocumented immigrants to federal authorities under a proposal introduced in the Los Angeles City Council. The proposal, by Councilman Dennis Zine, a former LAPD officer, would result in a closer relationship between the department and Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials and is likely to generate controversy. The plan comes amid a new debate over Special Order 40, a Los Angeles Police Department rule that defines when officers can inquire about the immigration status of suspects. The 29-year-old rule is a cornerstone of the department's policy toward immigrants and is designed to encourage undocumented residents who are victims of crimes or witnesses to cooperate with police without fear of deportation.

UPDATE (April 18):  Los Angeles Police Chief William J. Bratton has said that the department's policy dealing with undocumented immigrants was widely misunderstood. Bratton strongly defended the basic intent of Special Order 40, which prohibits officers from initiating contact with individuals for the sole purpose of determining whether they are illegal immigrants.

Monicavarsanyi Monica Varsanyi, a professor of the School of Justice and Social Inquiry at Arizona State, defended the LAPD policy in the L.A. Times:

"The LAPD's reluctance to make it easier to ask individuals about their immigration status before arrest is in keeping with the views of the overwhelming majority of the police chiefs we surveyed. Allowing L.A. officers to check the immigration status of known gang members before arrest would certainly take some of them off the streets. But as the chiefs in our surveyed cities worried, becoming more of an arm of ICE would likely send a chill through immigrant communities, decrease trust between police and vulnerable residents and sacrifice overall public safety."

KJ

http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/immigration/2008/04/tragedy-causes.html

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Comments

Meanwhile, countless families like the Shaws weep for their dead, while persons who commit crimes are released from prison to commit more crimes on citizens all for the sake of an unproven theory. Professor, maybe you'd like to spend some time explaining this policy to the families of these people personally. What kind of scale are you using to measure the merits of establishing citizenship in our prisons to that of the questionable concern for crime reporting. It's probably easy for you to judge, living in your ivory tower of academia as you do. Yes, it's too bad for the Shaws, but as you see it, it's only collateral damage for your open borders-amnesty agenda.

Posted by: Horace | Apr 9, 2008 4:58:53 PM

Assuming the alleged killer is an undocumented immigrant (and it appears that this is the case), LAPD's Special Order 40 in no way prevented authorities from questioning him about his immigration status during or at the time of his release from his earlier period of incarceration. ICE obviously does identify most or many non-citizens who are potentially subject to removal proceedings as they are released from custody. Some of the local media coverage of yesterday's LA city council hearing is continuing to put forth the myth that police can check some existing master database to identify who is "legal" and who is "illegal", ignoring the fact no such database can ever exist until there is some central registry of US citizens.

Posted by: Niels Frenzen | Apr 9, 2008 5:13:01 PM

Assuming the alleged killer is an undocumented immigrant (and it appears that this is the case), LAPD's Special Order 40 in no way prevented authorities from questioning him about his immigration status during or at the time of his release from his earlier period of incarceration. ICE obviously does identify most or many non-citizens who are potentially subject to removal proceedings as they are released from custody. Some of the local media coverage of yesterday's LA city council hearing is continuing to put forth the myth that police can check some existing master database to identify who is "legal" and who is "illegal", ignoring the fact no such database can ever exist until there is some central registry of US citizens.

Posted by: Niels Frenzen | Apr 9, 2008 5:16:01 PM

'The reason that the LAPD -- not known for being soft on crime -- has its current "don't ask, don't tell" policy is to ensure that all residents (undocumented or not) feel comfortable in cooperating with the police.'

ALL residents? No exceptions? Even violent criminals and gang members who are known to have reentered the country illegally? Why not limit Special Order 40 to those who are solely in violation of immigration laws but not violent crimes? Why in the world look the other way at violent criminals and give them blanket protection? It's not as if they are going to cooperate anyway.

Special Order 40 does not prevent LAPD from informing ICE but that is not routinely done. The problem in this case was not deporting upon release from jail/prison and only asking this person where he was born. He lied and Jamiel is dead. We're operating an honor system with criminals!

Hypothetical: Let's say a higher up of one of the gangs is spotted by a patrolman. He has prior assault or homicide convictions and it's known that he is in violation of criminal federal immigration law, not just illegally present or in civil violation. The inherent police authority to arrest is not disputed on that procedural distinction. There is no time to inform ICE and the delay in doing so would result in him escaping. Please tell me how it is good policy NOT to arrest such a person? How is waiting for the next violent act preferable to preventing the next violent act? Do you really think letting him roam makes things safer? Do you really think removing such a person from the streets would undermine police cooperation? Why?

Posted by: j | Apr 10, 2008 1:13:15 AM

'an unproven theory'

Which doesn't even make sense. But people who agree with the politics aren't eager to examine the policy. They just accept it unquestioningly. Do they have anything substantive to indicate it is good policy? If so, they keep it to themselves. All we get is 'Darrel Gates supported it--you calling him soft on crime?' 'The police chiefs support it'. WHO CARES!? That's not an acceptable answer. That's like a President saying the generals all thought Vietnam was a good idea so I do too. That's what L.A.'s mayor sounds like. All that matters is whether the policy works and it doesn't seem like the powers that be are real eager to put it under any real scrutiny.

Posted by: j | Apr 11, 2008 12:05:47 AM

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