LOS ANGELES - The ACLU of California and advocacy groups today sent a letter to Lexipol, a vendor of pre-packaged police policies, demanding that it eliminate illegal and unclear directives that can lead to racial profiling and harassment of immigrants.
The letter, signed by the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, Alliance San Diego, Asian Americans Advancing Justice-CA, California Immigrant Policy Center and Immigrant Legal Resource Center along with the ACLU, challenges the ready-made policies purchased by numerous police departments across California, including those in Azusa, Culver City, Fontana, Irwindale, Laguna Beach, Murrieta and Rialto.
The policies include guidelines that are unconstitutional and otherwise illegal, and can lead to improper detentions and erroneous arrests. The letter points out three key areas in immediate need of revision:
Arrests for crossing the border into the U.S.: The Lexipol policies tell officers they can arrest people for the federal misdemeanor crime of illegally entering the country. They neglect to say that the law requires an arresting officer to personally witness the illegal entry. It’s highly unlikely that an officer in a police department not on an international border could legitimately make that arrest. Instead, officers will be encouraged to arrest people based on broad suspicions about their immigration status. The lack of proper guidance could lead to a person being improperly jailed, and that could lead to loss of employment and trauma for a family, not to mention unnecessary costs incurred by a city.
False basis for suspicion of federal immigration crimes: The Lexipol policies list several factors that can be used by officers to indicate someone has committed a federal crime, including possession of immigration papers “indicative that the person is not legally present in the United States.” But that could instead point to a civil immigration matter that is not a crime at all. For example, a person who entered the country legally but then stayed beyond the approved period of time. What’s more, by suggesting that police should examine the immigration papers of members of their communities, the policies threaten to create “show me your papers” cities where police are wrapped up in enforcing immigration law.
Using indicators far too general: The Lexipol policies state that under some circumstances, the lack of English-language fluency can contribute to suspicion of a federal crime. That casts a huge net -- according to a U.S. Census Bureau survey, nearly 19% of people in California have limited English proficiency.
"Using English proficiency as a factor to justify a police detention is discriminatory and violates state and federal law," said Adrienna Wong, staff attorney at the ACLU of Southern California.
Lexipol policies do state that suspicion “shall not be based on race, color (or) national origin.” But then it goes on to muddy the waters by saying, “except to the extent permitted by the United States or California constitutions.”
In truth there’s nothing in either the U.S. or state constitutions that justify suspicion based on those factors.
“When local police get involved in the business of immigration enforcement, that undermines community trust and compromises public safety,” said Jessica Karp Bansal, litigation director of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network. “These policies should be shelved immediately.”
The letter calls upon the company to change these and other harmful aspects of its policies, and inform agencies that already purchased them of the misstatements.
> Read the letter
The ACLU of California is a collaboration of the three ACLU affiliates in the state: ACLU of Northern California, ACLU of Southern California and the ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties.