LOS ANGELES, Calif. – A three-judge panel today upheld the Los Angeles Police Department’s use of Special Order 40 – a decades old policy prohibiting officers from using immigration status to initiate investigations. The decision by the California Court of Appeals strikes a balance between immigrants’ rights to equal protection and officers’ duty to protect communities.

The panel affirmed a lower court’s determination that Special Order 40 is constitutionally sound, and sided with the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California, which fought the lifting of the policy on behalf of community groups representing domestic violence victims and day laborers. The case arose out of Los Angeles’ resident Harold Sturgeon’s 2006 lawsuit to stop the city from spending money on enforcing Special Order 40.

Special Order 40 was adopted in 1979 by then-LAPD Chief Daryl Gates as a way to encourage immigrants to cooperate with police and build community trust. 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 foster trust among immigrant communities.

The following statement can be attributed to Belinda Escobosa Helzer, ACLU/SC staff attorney.

“Immigrants in Los Angeles no longer have to worry that they will be forced to choose between personal safety and their future. The court understands, as does the LAPD, that stripping away Special Order 40 would have not only violated the law but been a grave mistake in a city with such deep immigrant roots. With Special Order 40 securely intact, beat cops can continue to build strong trust with community members, residents can report crimes without fear of being deported, and Los Angeles – with all its diversity - will be a safer place. I hope this will be the final chapter in what has frankly been a misguided challenge to a sound policy.”

Stay informed

ACLU of Southern California is part of a network of affiliates

Learn more about ACLU National