LOS ANGELES - The ACLU Foundation of Southern California and a coalition of advocacy groups today sent a letter to Los Angeles Police Department Chief Charlie Beck, Mayor Eric Garcetti and city council members, demanding that they take steps to prevent Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers from impersonating police officers to gain access to homes and businesses in Los Angeles.
The deception critically endangers LAPD policies that seek to assure immigrant community members they can report crimes and assist police investigations without fear of deportation. These policies have been vital in furthering public safety.
ICE permits its agents to misrepresent themselves as police officers, probation officers, religious workers and other officials to gain community members’ permission to enter homes without warrants. The ruse has also been used to get individuals to volunteer information they might not otherwise divulge.
"ICE’s impersonations exploit the trust that LAPD has sought to build with immigrant community members," said Michael Kaufman, Sullivan & Cromwell Access to Justice Staff Attorney at the ACLU of Southern California. "It is critical that city leaders take a stand against ICE’s deceptive practices, particularly in light of the Trump administration’s intent to build a mass deportation dragnet."
The letter, which provides accounts of several incidents of the deceptive practice, explains that immigrant community members may be more reticent to cooperate with LAPD officers in the future because they will have no way to discern whether officers who say they are "police" are LAPD or ICE.
The ruse undermines Special Order 40, a long-standing LAPD policy of not taking actions to identify an individual's immigration status. The policy seeks to assure community members that their cooperation with police investigations will not lead to their deportations.
In the past ICE has recognized that its impersonation tactics can harm the groups they pretend to represent. ICE's stated policy is to obtain the permission "of an executive [of the law enforcement agency] with the authority to grant permission for the impersonation."
The letter issued today strongly urges that permission be denied. It calls upon the LAPD to expressly refuse ICE the right to impersonate police officers. Furthermore, it demands that ICE agents wear uniforms with clear agency identification when carrying out actions in Los Angeles.
The letter also calls for a meeting to educate community members on how to identify legitimate LAPD officers.
In addition to the ACLU SoCal, the letter was signed by Asian Americans Advancing Justice—Los Angeles; CARECEN-LA; The Center for Popular Democracy; Immigrant Defenders Law Center; Korean American Coalition; LAANE; Loyola Immigrant Justice Clinic; National Day Labor Organizing Network; National Immigration Law Center; National Lawyers Guild—Los Angeles; Public Counsel; Restaurant Opportunities Center of Los Angeles; SEIU-UHW; UFCW Local 770; United Union of Roofers, Waterproofers & Allied Workers, Local 36.