LOS ANGELES, Calif. - The balance between the right of immigrants to equal protection and the duty of Los Angeles police officers to keep communities safe was upheld today when Superior Court Judge Rolf M. Treu granted summary judgment and dismissed a lawsuit aimed at getting rid of the LAPD's Special Order 40, which prohibits officers from using immigration status to initiate investigations.
Two years ago, a local taxpayer, Harold Sturgeon, filed suit to stop the city from spending public money to enforce the policy, arguing that it was an illegal use of public funds.
The judge instead agreed with attorneys for the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California (ACLU/SC), who argued that Sturgeon had not proved Special Order 40 is illegal because he could not show that it violates federal law.
'Today, Judge Treu ruled in favor of balance and responsibility,' said Hector Villagra, an ACLU/SC attorney who defended Special Order 40 on behalf of community, immigrant and anti-domestic abuse groups. 'Immigrants in Los Angeles now are saved from having to choose between their personal safety and their future.'
In 2006, the Major Cities' Chiefs Association, a grouping of the chiefs of the 64 largest police departments in the nation, expressed its firm support for policies such as Special Order 40 because they help strengthen the relationship between police and vulnerable communities. Since 1979, when the rule was adopted in Los Angeles, major cities across the country have followed suit with their own similar ordinances.
'Keeping Special Order 40 intact allows beat cops in communities affected by crime to build cooperative relationships with residents,' said Belinda Escobosa Helzer of the ACLU/SC, who also litigated the policy's defense. 'Community members can report crimes without fear that a tip will lead to deportation. That's crucial in a city where more than 40 percent of the population is foreign-born.'
The policy helps ensure justice for the most vulnerable members of society.
'Without the protection of Special Order 40, the ability to assist victims of domestic violence would be significantly hampered,' said Jessica Aronoff, Executive Director for Break the Cycle, one of the groups represented by the ACLU/SC. 'Many domestic violence victims are hesitant to take legal action and do not seek help of any kind because they fear involving law enforcement. This fear is particularly acute for those who are undocumented.'