Local Police and Immigration Law: The Case of Special Order 40

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In 1979, L.A. Chief of Police Daryl Gates instituted Special Order 40, which directed police officers not to enforce immigration laws and not to inquire into the immigration status of persons involved in criminal investigations. The order's purpose was to ensure "a high degree of cooperation between the Department and the public it serves." Specifically, the order states "officers shall not initiate police action with the objective of discovering the alien status of a person."

Overview of the Controversy

The order is still in effect today, almost 30 years after its inception. But it periodically comes under scrutiny by community activists and policy makers. Supporters believe it encourages unauthorized immigrant residents to cooperate with the police. Without the special order, they are less likely to report crime. Opponents believe that it rewards people who have entered the country illegally, creating a kind of amnesty for them in Los Angeles

specialorder40Controversy in Focus: Jamiel's Law

When Jamiel Shaw II, a 17-year-old Los Angeles High School student, was shot and killed by an alleged gang member in March 2008, news reports revealed that the suspect, Pedro Espinoza, is also allegedly an unauthorized immigrant. As a result, a movement arose to have the L.A. City Council pass an ordinance prohibiting all city officials from applying Special Order 40 to known or suspected gang members.