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LAPD Police Chief on Immigration: Fight Crime, Protect Communities

by Jacquelyn Mahendra on 10/27/2009 at 2:09pm

Yesterday, in “Warning: Talking Sanely about Immigration May Be Hazardous,” we reported on Sacramento’s Police Chief Rick Braziel, and his measured, rational approach to immigration and community policing.

Today, we are happy to highlight another key voice on this issue. Outgoing LAPD Police Chief William J. Bratton is a member of the rapidly-growing network of police chiefs across the nation calling for a serious immigration overhaul. According to his LAPD bio, Chief Bratton oversaw a historic drop in crime during his six years in office:

After six years in office, crime in LA has been reduced to historically low levels, with Part I crimes down 33% and homicides down 41%.

The only person ever to serve as chief executive of the LAPD and the NYPD, Chief Bratton established an international reputation for re-engineering police departments and fighting crime in the 1990s.

As he prepared to depart from distinguished service, Bratton laid out a strong immigration position in an op-ed in today’s LA Times, drawing on his 40 years of law enforcement experience:

On March 12, Juan Garcia, a 53-year-old homeless man, was brutally murdered in an alley off 9th and Alvarado streets in the Westlake District, just west of downtown Los Angeles. At first, the police were stumped; there were no known witnesses and few clues. Then a 43-year-old undocumented immigrant who witnessed the crime came forward and told the homicide detectives from the Rampart station what he saw. Because of his help, a suspect was identified and arrested a few days later while hiding on skid row. Because the witness was not afraid to contact the police, an accused murderer was taken off the streets, and we are all a little bit safer. Stories like this are repeated daily in Los Angeles.

Keeping America’s neighborhoods safe requires our police forces to have the trust and help of everyone in our communities. My nearly 40 years in law enforcement, and my experience as police commissioner in Boston and New York City and as chief in Los Angeles, have taught me this.

Stressing the need to keep communities safe by working in partnership with victims and witnesses to crimes, Bratton points out important flaws in the federal government’s 287(g) program. He argues:

A person reporting a crime should never fear being deported, but such fears are real and palpable for many of our immigrant neighbors.

This fear is not unfounded. Earlier this month, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano announced that 11 more locations across the United States have agreed to participate in a controversial law enforcement program known as 287(g). The program gives local law enforcement agencies the powers of federal immigration agents by entering into agreements with Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE. Although many local agencies have declined to participate in 287(g), 67 state and local law enforcement agencies are working with ICE, acting as immigration agents.

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