Los Angeles – Saying police need to maintain the trust of the community during a federal government stalemate on immigration policy, Mayor Eric Garcetti and Chief Charlie Beck announced today that the LAPD will no longer comply with most requests by immigration authorities to detain suspects.
Garcetti said the Los Angeles Police Department will not adhere to "detainer requests issued without judicial review." The mayor said he wants the city to treat immigrants with respect and dignity "while we wait on the federal government to act on immigration reform."
Beck said the department would follow the mayor's directive, saying it is important for the LAPD to have the trust of the community. "There's nothing more important to a police department than community trust," Beck said.
By no longer complying with detainer requests from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), more people will report crimes, come forward as witnesses and obey the law, Beck suggested.
Beck said the department has already been "systematically" scaling back the number of detainments over the past three years, and the crime rates have fallen.
According to Beck, the city has received 773 ICE detainer requests since the beginning of the year and complied with more than 300 of them. The decisions were made based on the "severity of the crime" and the individuals' criminal history, he said.
Garcetti said the policy change does not mean the city will release "violent or serious criminals," but would ensure that detentions would undergo a judicial review.
"The way it exists right now, you don't even have to go to a judge" for ICE to issue a detainer request, he said.
Garcetti said detainer requests took away resources from the LAPD, costing taxpayer money when the city's budget is already "stretched."
"We want to put more police officers back on the street, solving crimes, doing the things that our citizens pay their tax dollars to make sure law enforcement is doing," Garcetti said, adding that the federal government is the one that needs to be enforcing federal immigration laws.
City Attorney Mike Feuer said the city has the legal standing to resist ICE's requests.
A federal court ruling in Oregon "makes clear ICE detentions are requests," he said. "They are not mandates, and it is therefore up to the local jurisdiction to determine what its policy will be with respect to honoring those requests."
Immigrant-rights advocates hailed the announcement, with Claudia Bautista of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network (NDLON) saying the police chief's "clear directive to reject ICE's overreaching detainer requests moves Los Angeles another step away from the Arizona policies that threaten L.A. families and public safety."
"The coalition will be watching very closely to make sure ICE does not try to circumvent the policy announced today in any way," Bautista said.
Jessica Karp, an NDLON attorney who is suing the county over a detainer request, said the mayor and the police chief "should be applauded for differentiating Los Angeles and crafting city policies that honor the city's immigrant roots instead of ICE's unjust efforts."
"The people of Los Angeles can feel safer as local officials are taking steps to repair the damage done to community-police relations by the federal Secure Communities program," she said.
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