Los Angeles police chief William Bratton has said a long-time police policy on dealing with illegal immigrants is widely misunderstood, even by some police officers, The Los Angeles Times reported Thursday.
The Los Angeles Police Department chief defended the basic intent of the department's Special Order 40, which prohibits officers from initiating contact with individuals just to determine if they are illegal immigrants,
The 29-year-old policy was designed to encourage illegal immigrants to cooperate with police without fear of being deported. It has come under renewed debate in recent weeks after the high-profile killing of a teenager, allegedly by an illegal immigrant gang member.
City Councilman Dennis Zine recently proposed making it easier for police to inquire about known gang members' immigration status, but Bratton told the newspaper that the recent criticism is based on a faulty understanding of the rule.
"There is a misrepresentation, misinterpretation, misunderstanding on the part of all the concerned parties here -- whether it is immigrant advocates, immigrant haters, the talk shows, drive-time radio talk-show hosts," the police chief said.
He acknowledged even some of his own officers were confused, saying he has heard accounts of officers who believe they are prohibited from calling federal immigration officials to report known gang members who have committed crimes and reentered the United States illegally.
According to Bratton, in such cases police need to determine whether the person has an outstanding federal arrest warrant for illegal re-entry into the country, and, if not, whether federal immigration officials are willing to pursue one.