Fuel for immigration debate

Cops walk a fine line

April 20, 2008|Richard Winton | Times Staff Writer

Special Order 40 is hobbling police. That's the view of an LAPD officer who writes about the department for National Review Online and other publications under the pseudonym "Jack Dunphy."

Although the order states only that officers can't stop people solely to inquire about their immigration status, "the policy and the reality are quite different," he said in an interview with The Times. The officer asked that his real name not be used.

Worried about running afoul of department policy, Dunphy said, some officers are reluctant to take action against illegal immigrants, even known criminals.

As a result, he said, people who have been deported for crimes often return and live in full view of the Los Angeles Police Department.

Police officers have no desire to stop and detain otherwise law-abiding people just because they have entered the country illegally, he said, but they don't want to feel that they can't take action against criminals.

Dunphy said he and other officers on the street won't talk publicly about their concerns because they fear retribution from LAPD brass who support Special Order 40.

Officers also believe Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa is an unabashed supporter of immigrants -- legal and illegal -- and that any move to turn suspects over to federal authorities would be frowned upon and even career suicide, he said.

There are other reasons as well, he said, that officers are reluctant to speak up on the sensitive issue of illegal immigration.

During the Rampart police corruption scandal of the 1990s, officers worked closely with federal authorities to turn over gang members who were suspected of being illegal immigrants, he said. Today's officers are afraid of being accused of similar tactics.

Dunphy said he sees a larger problem with how local and federal authorities deal with illegal immigrants.

He cited the case of Maria Leon, an illegal immigrant whose former Glassell Park home police say was a center of drug activity for years. Leon has been arrested 14 times dating to 1985, according to police and court records. She has three convictions for drug-related crimes and was deported twice.

But Leon was undeterred. Last week, she was arrested by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents in front of her former Drew Street home. She was charged with illegally reentering the country, a felony that carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in federal prison.

Dunphy said Leon should have been prosecuted for immigration violations sooner.

As for federal authorities, Dunphy said he once called them about a drug dealer he had arrested, an illegal immigrant who had reentered the country twice. But he said the federal agents were not interested because the drug dealer had not been involved in a violent crime.


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