It's a question that has been asked since the days of former Chief Daryl Gates and beyond: Should the Los Angeles Police Department pursue illegal immigration as a crime unto itself? Ever since Gates initiated the department's controversial Special Order 40 some officers have felt handcuffed by its prohibition on pursuing illegal immigrants. The rationale then, and it has been affirmed by Chief Charlie Beck now, is that immigrants would not cooperate with police — including reporting crimes and being witnesses — if they feared being deported.

The Los Angeles Daily News over the weekend, however, opines that times have changed drastically since Gates tenure (1978 to 1992), and it's high time to put Special Order 40 out to pasture. States the Daily News:

The 31-year-old policy has been eclipsed by angry politics of the moment and its meaning has been so lost in the din of the immigration fight that we think it is doing more harm than good.

This is not a call for a return to the pre 1979-days when officers were required to ask everyone about their immigration status – even if they were just reporting a crime. It is not even a call to adopt an Arizona-like law. But it is a call to update what is an extremely anachronistic policy and replace it with one that reflects the needs of the 21st century.

… [Mayor] Villaraigosa should dump Special Order 40 and ask Chief Charlie Beck to come up with it a replacement policy that makes better sense for today's issue, something that makes clear that criminals who are illegal immigrants will get special treatment – right off to jail or deportation.

What do you think?

LA Weekly