News And Politics

OnCentral on Record: Police and immigration status

Feb. 9, 2012, 7:45 a.m.

LAPD Chief Charlie Beck, right, with Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, center, at a June 2010 press conference. In January 2011, Beck said it's "imperative" that those who are in the country illegally understand that simply reporting crimes doesn't put them at risk for deportation.

In "OnCentral on the Record," we share information that we believe is important to maintaining a high quality of life in South Los Angeles.

Undocumented immigrants living in South Los Angeles face a difficult and often frightening dilemma when it comes to interacting with the police: Is it worth the risk of one's undocumented status being discovered?

But according to Los Angeles Police Department Officer and spokeswoman Karen Rayner, immigration status is a non-factor when it comes to dealing with the LAPD. "LAPD officers do not get involved in anyone's immigration status," she wrote to OnCentral. She clarified that once someone is in custody, the jail will do an immigration check to determine if that person is in the country illegally. "This is not a function of the LAPD," she continued.

Rayner referred to Special Order #40, the purpose of which is to "assure immigrant communities within the City of Los Angeles that there is no need to fear contact with the LAPD when they have been the victim [of] or witness to a crime." Conversely, it also ensures that LAPD personnel do not begin investigations solely to determine a person's immigration status."

Emphasizing that immigration status is not a factor in LAPD activity, Rayner encouraged "every victim to come forward to report every crime," regardless of whether she or he is living in the country legally.

At a press conference last January, LAPD Chief Charlie Beck echoed that, saying that it "is imperative that our immigrant communities, regardless of their county of origin, understand that they are not at risk of being deported or subject to any other penalty for reporting crimes that they have either been the victim of or a witness to."

Acknowledging that this may be met with suspicion or skepticism by immigrant communities, Rayner wrote, "There is only so much we as a [department] can do. We have ongoing dialogue with community members, advocates, activists ... We have strict policies and procedures that officers must operate within that [protect] every victim, regardless of immigration status."

Photo by Antonio Villaraigosa via Flickr Creative Commons.

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