LOS ANGELES -- Clear Los Angeles Police Department policy, adopted over two decades ago, was flagrantly violated by Rampart CRASH officers when they arrested former gang member Alex Sanchez on an Immigration and Naturalization Service warrant.
Sanchez is now a peacemaker, working to bring about gang truces and provide training and job opportunities to former gang members. What possible justification can the police have for going after gang violence prevention efforts instead of enforcing laws against gang violence?
Worse yet, the officers appear to have been acting in retaliation against Mr. Sanchez for his testimony last September before a State Senate committee investigating police abuse against former gang members.
Investigations in the corruption scandal rocking the Rampart CRASH unit have revealed a pattern of arrogance, intimidation and lawlessness. We now add retaliation for public exposure of police abuse to the appalling list. If the police have their way, Alex Sanchez will not speak out again, sending a clear message to all victims of police abuse, documented and undocumented:
"If you know what's good for you, don't talk." These most recent CRASH unit actions drive a stake through the heart of our democratic system of government.
Special Order 40, enacted in 1979, bars police from enforcing federal immigration laws. The Police Commission and top LAPD officials strongly re-affirmed the Order just three years ago.
Special Order 40 is essential. Immigrants are disproportionately the targets of crime. Victims and witnesses concerned that they will be questioned about their immigration status - or arrested and turned over to INS officials by the police - will refuse to come forward. The result is inevitable: immigrants will become easy prey for criminals who know the victims will not report offenses to the police for fear of being deported.