LOS ANGELES - The ACLU of Southern California on behalf of Los Angeles-based community groups that represent victims of domestic violence and day laborers, moved today to defend a policy of the Los Angeles Police Department, known as Special Order 40, designed to better protect all residents of Los Angeles.

"Los Angeles is a city of immigrants," said ACLU/SC staff attorney Nora Preciado. "The Los Angeles Police Department should be commended for its commitment to community policing and ensuring that all residents in the city feel safe and comfortable when reporting a crime whether they are victims or witnesses regardless of their immigration status. That trust will make everyone safer."

Break the Cycle, a non-profit group that provides support and preventative education aimed at countering domestic violence, and three organizations that represent day laborers in Los Angeles are seeking to intervene in a lawsuit filed in May in Los Angeles Superior Court. The original lawsuit, Sturgeon v. Bratton, is aimed at enjoining Special Order 40.

Special Order 40 was first adopted by the LAPD in 1979 by Police Chief Daryl Gates in order to ensure a cooperative relationship with all Los Angeles residents. Special Order 40 establishes that "undocumented alien status in itself is not a matter for police action" and that "officers shall not initiate police action with the objective of discovering the alien status of a person." Police chiefs and experts throughout the country agree that local enforcement of federal immigration law is neither consistent with police authority under federal law nor does it encourage trust with immigrant communities.

Jessica Aronoff, executive director of Break the Cycle, says a large portion of her organization's clients are young Latina victims of domestic violence, some of whom identify as undocumented residents.

"Many domestic violence victims who ask Break the Cycle for assistance are terrified to involve the police in their case or take legal action," Aronoff said. "For residents who are undocumented or have a family member or a friend who is, the fear is compounded by the chance that they or someone they love could be deported. Without Special Order 40 many abusers will be allowed to go free because women will be even more hesitant to report such crimes."

Special Order 40 is supported by Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, the Los Angeles Police Department, the office of the City Attorney, the Los Angeles City Council, countless community and advocacy groups and others. Other interveners in the case are: the Institute of Popular Education of Southern California, Los Jornaleros and El Comite de Jornaleros.

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