City Councilman Dennis Zine has read us right. That's responsive and responsible politics. The LA Times actually fairly accurately reports:
"If an officer stops an individual . . . who is determined to be a gang member, and it's determined they are also illegally here, then the department should notify immigration," Zine said. "It directs the resources against the gangs. Immigration needs to use its resources to go after gangs."
Zine's proposal would not overturn Special Order 40, which states that "officers shall not initiate police action with the objective of discovering the alien status of a person." But Zine's amendment would be more specific as to how officers can inquire into the immigration status of suspected gang members.
LAPD Deputy Chief Sergio Diaz said such actions were not directly prohibited by Special Order 40. Some officers already check the immigration status of gang members they detain -- but others don't because they believe it's not permitted under department rules.
Diaz said the new rules would spell out how officers deal with such cases.
"Special Order 40 prohibits only two things. It prohibits our officers from arresting individuals for illegally entering the country, which is a federal misdemeanor," Diaz said. "It also does not allow our officers to initiate an investigation solely for the purpose of discovering a person's immigration status."
I was on the radio with Deputy Chief Diaz, and he admitted that jurisdiction and rules can be complex. This clarification is an excellent first step that makes the PD more proactive. It gets more bad guys off the street quicker - a one-two punch.
I still suspect that there's a bottleneck somewhere in the judicial and penal end of this train of criminal custody. That gangbanger can be detained and arrested, but if ICE throws up their hands, as Villaragosa rather flippantly asserted last week, then there can still be suspects floating through the cracks and illegals sent back to American streets. What is not clear is the efficiency with which such persons, identified as in the country illegally are actually deported. I don't think that the reform's most critical feature is in aggressive policing, but in fast-tracking those known Mexican national convicts back to Mexico.
I am glad to see Deputy Chief Diaz do his part in this and I hope and expect that people who are specifically concerned about a chilling effect on other illegal immigrants cooperation with police recognize that the distinction between those who might be on an eventual path towards naturalization and gangbangers is a sound and reasonable distinction. Nobody should live in fear of gangs in America. You can be a good neighbor even if you are not a citizen.
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