Decades ago, white officers comprised the majority of the Los Angeles Police Department with the effect of essentially polarizing law enforcement from the very community it was established to serve. And while community leadership efforts since then have translated into more racial diversity within the ranks of the LAPD, the Donald Trump presidency has likewise meant a need to increase efforts from the department even more to demonstrate a sense of alliance with city residents.
“After Trump took office, the department found itself grappling with a drop in crimes being reported by Latinos,” according to The Los Angeles Times. Specifically, LAPD recorded a drop of more than 23 percent in sexual assault crimes and a decline of more than 8 percent in domestic violence incidents reported by Latinos. “That prompted officers to hold more than 100 forums to remind people that the department’s stance on supporting the estimated 375,000 Los Angeles residents who are in the country illegally remained the same.”
To this end, last December LAPD leadership issued an update to Special Order 40, a directive adopted in the late 1970’s that directs officers to avoid initiating actions “with the objective of discovering the alien status of a person.” Police procedures no longer include recording place-of-birth information during victim interviews or while detaining individuals. However, officers do collect place-of-birth information with an individual’s arrest and during fingerprinting. The update augments L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti’s Executive Directive 20, adopted in March 2017, that bars federal immigration officer access to city facilities not open to the general public.
Connie Rice, a Los Angeles-based civil rights attorney and consultant to police commissioners and elected officials over the past 30 years, says the LAPD outreach reflects the department’s decades-long effort to better serve the community through its own internal diversity. “They have not just reformed what they look like and whom they hire, they’ve reformed how they think,” she says. “They’ve reformed their entire outlook of these communities.
LAPD’s effort in diversity has resulted in a current police force where 48 percent of sworn officers identify as Latino, 10 percent identify as Asian, 10 percent identify as black, and approximately 15 percent of officers are foreign-born.
The policies adopted by the department demonstrates the leadership role the LAPD has taken in adopting policies and practices that protect immigrant residents, says UCLA immigration law professor Ingrid Eagly.
“We are in a moment of heightened immigration enforcement that is heavily dependent on local police decisions to trigger deportations,” she says. “This makes policing policy ( both on the street and inside local jails ) an important part of how immigration is actually enforced on the ground.”