If “Special Order 40" sounds vaguely like a term from a spy or science fiction thriller, that’s in keeping with the surreal conversation that is raging around the 1979 Los Angeles Police Department rule. Specifically, the order has figured centrally in discussions of the murder of 17-year-old Jamiel Shaw, allegedly at the hands of 19-year-old illegal immigrant Pedro Espinoza. As LAPD Chief William Bratton noted recently, much of this conversation has been disconnected from the reality of the order, which governs how officers deal with undocumented immigrants and did not factor into the case at hand.
But the passions around this issue suggest something larger than just confusion about procedure or jurisdiction. The Shaw case opens onto a set of crises around crime, illegal immigration, gangs, proper policing roles and the difficulty of ensuring the rights of citizens and non-citizens in Southern California. For some, Special Order 40 is a symbol of L.A.'s collapse into a lawless “sanctuary city.” For others it’s crucial to the goal of protecting human rights, while still others see it as an important tool in maintaining civil order. There are plenty of other views as well, and though they don’t all have direct bearing on Special Order 40, they speak to the tension and anger felt by many locals.
We rounded up quotes from 40 Southern Californians on this controversial police rule.
Constance Rice, co-founder and co-director of the Advancement Project
Special Order 40 is absolutely essential for any workable law enforcement system in Southern California. There will be no integrity to our criminal justice system without it. African Americans can not be advocating racial profiling, which is what ending Special Order 40 would amount to.
Harry Gamboa Jr., artist
Special Order 40 must be respected so that all people can confidently approach the LAPD for emergency assistance or to provide vital information regarding criminal activity. The LAPD should not be as cold as ICE.
Daryl F. Gates, LAPD chief, 1978-1992
Special Order 40 has been following me all these years. It was written at a different time in history, when the state attorney general said illegal entry was not our business, no one was paying attention to the influx of illegals into Southern California, and the community did not seem to be concerned. We had a lot of illegals here who had been victims of crimes, and we wanted to help them. So for one thing, it would help cooperation, and two, I didn’t want my guys asking every brown-faced person if they were citizens. That was the purpose of Special Order 40. It was never ever designed to protect criminals. But today the issue is no Special Order 40; it’s gangs. The city not doing enough, and it should use every tool available to us to combat gangs. If that means asking them if they’re illegal and deporting them, so be it. This is not about Special Order 40, it’s about using every legal tool to combat gangs. I don’t see any reason for an amendment to the order, but I’m all for Dennis Zine doing something about it. I believe the LAPD has every ability to go after gangs, and to use immigration to do that. Any gang member ought to be fair game.
James Q. Wilson, Ronald Reagan professor of public policy at Pepperdine University
Special Order 40 should be tailored to ensure that the police can retain good relations with witnesses and victims, some of whom may be immigrants. Having Special Order 40 used in this way does not make Los Angeles a “sanctuary city” because all arrestees must tell jail custodians about their immigration status.
Rep. Xavier Becerra (CA-31), Assistant to the Speaker of the House
Special Order 40 exists to catch criminals, not protect them. It exists to enhance cooperation with police by all residents of Los Angeles, regardless of status. It should not be the responsibility of Los Angeles’ police officers already stretched thin to fill the gap left by the federal government’s inadequate enforcement of its immigration laws.
Gustavo Arellano, columnist, OC Weekly
I support Special Order 40 because, from Darryl Gates to Bratton, LAPD chiefs have said it’s crucial to stop crime. But there is no “side” to whether you’re for or against the measure: Both those who support and oppose it want to combat crime. Proponents and opponents of Special Order 40 should understand this and work together rather than engage in their respective political conspiracies.
Joe Hicks, Vice President of Community Advocates Inc.
I am deeply opposed to Special Order 40. Anything that makes it more difficult for the LAPD to do its job is not a good idea. I think the streets would be a lot safer if we had moved years ago to remove this rule that makes it harder for the police to their job.
Rev. Jarlath Cunanne, Pastor, Parish of Saint Thomas the Apostle
Some of us in the community work very hard to build up trust and communication between the police department and the community. Special Order 40 is very important to that, and its removal would serve only to break down communications and the advances in community policing that have been made. We also need our police, who are already stretched thin, to be focused on hard crime in the neighborhood, and not on other things.
Eddie Jones, president, Los Angeles Civil Rights Association
Anyone who is in the United States legally, they’re OK. But if you’re in the United States of America and you’re an illegal alien and you know you are, that’s wrong; that’s not fair. I’m not against anybody who’s here as an illegal immigrant; that’s just the law. Some of the laws need to be fixed by legislation, our supreme court, our president, our governor, our mayor and our citizens. But no one should have the right to live in America and not be a citizen, because it makes it unfair for the ones who try to become citizens.
Walter Moore, candidate for mayor of Los Angeles
The whole point of Jamiel’s Law, which I wrote, is to deport gang members before they commit murder or other crimes, rather than waiting until afterward.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson, syndicated columnist and political analyst
Amending, or even repealing, Special Order 40 won’t bring Shaw’s son back. Yet something must be done to patch the holes that allow violent criminals who are here illegally to fall through the cracks.
Ed Reyes, City Council member, First District
Special Order 40 has made our neighborhoods safer. That message has been drowned out by rhetoric that only makes our neighborhoods less safe. I applaud Chief Bratton’s efforts to clarify Special Order 40 for both our community and our LAPD.
Esai Morales, actor
As we examine Special Order 40 and issues concerning illegal immigrants, we must remember that we cannot penalize an entire community because of one individual’s horrible actions. This community is one that is struggling economically; and some of its economic struggle is the direct result of economic policies, like NAFTA, enacted by the U.S. Perhaps if some of our economic policies didn’t so drastically limit their economic opportunities at home, some illegal immigrants would not even be here.
Los Angeles Times Editorial Board
The tragedy exposes deplorable failures in the jailhouse processing of illegal immigrant criminals, but it has nothing to do with the LAPD, much less with Special Order 40.
Jasmyne Cannick, L.A.-based writer and regular contributor to National Public Radio’s “News and Notes”
As long as we continue to let others pull our strings and divert our attention, the streets of Los Angeles will continue to run red with brown and Black blood. Special Order 40 won’t change that; well-meaning street corner activists blaming Mexican immigrants won’t change that. It will change when the law abiding residents of Los Angeles are ready for it to change.
Robert Greene, L.A. Times editorial board member and Opinion L.A. blogger
The misunderstanding about how to apply Special Order 40 is so pervasive that to this day, some officers apparently believe that the order prevents them from cooperating with immigration officials.
Maria Brenes, Executive Director, InnerCity Struggle
Gang violence is plaguing communities in East and South Los Angeles. Although we have to do what is necessary to protect our children, targeting immigrants does not get to the root cause of violence in our communities. Violence cuts across all communities. The solution is to invest more in prevention programs and education.
Melrose Larry Green, local gadfly and author
I feel that Special Order 40 should definitely be repealed, and at the very least Jamiel’s Law should be passed unanimously, tomorrow, by the City Council.
Tim Rutten, L.A. Times Columnist
Anyone who proposes modifying the Los Angeles Police Department’s Special Order 40 is fishing in dangerous, potentially divisive civic waters.
Joseph Wambaugh, novelist and former LAPD detective sergeant
Special Order 40 has always worked well if it’s properly administered. If police or federal officials dropped the ball, the people of the community have every right to be angry. But even before 40, the LAPD never went around arresting victims and witnesses and ordinary working people.
Amy Alkon, syndicated columnist, advicegoddess.com
If I want a job cleaning your company’s toilets, I’ll have to present proof of citizenship and swear under penalty of perjury I’m legal, but if I mug you, beat you, and leave you for dead, it’s no questions asked?
Jim Gilchrist, co-founder, The Minuteman Project
The most expedient way to dismantle domestic terrorism in the United States is to repeal all the Special Order 40s around the country. If you repeal Special Order 40 you’ll allow law enforcement to protect the citizens of those communities. This rule smacks of special treatment for people who don’t deserve any special treatment other than being arrested and deported. I don’t blame the police department; I blame the City Council which does nothing but aid and abet the criminal mentality.
Patrick “Patterico” Frey, blogger at Patterico’s Pontifications
Jamiel Shaw would be alive today if we deported every illegal immigrant in County Jail. Instead, immigration authorities screen only 6% of L.A. jail inmates. The best “Jamiel’s Law” would prioritize deporting criminals, by assigning more immigration agents to jails.
Mitchell Young, frequent Opinion L.A. commenter
The Jamiel Shaw killing is an awful piece of evidence that law enforcement is ignoring U.S. immigration law, even in the case of criminal illegal aliens. Special Order 40 creates a huge disincentive to cooperation with immigration authorities; what cop on the street would inquire too closely as to a suspect’s immigration status knowing he could be in violation of departmental policy? What precinct captain is going to pick up the phone and call ICE, knowing that a local politician can beat him around the head and shoulders with the ill-conceived, 30-year-old policy?
Rev. Altagracia Perez, pastor, Holy Faith Episcopal Church
It isn’t helpful for bystanders because they won’t share information, but if people have committed a crime it’s fair to find out if they’re citizens. If you’ve committed a crime, the deportation should begin anyway. But [repealing Special Order 40] would only prevent bystanders or witnesses because from giving information. People are already feeling pretty terrorized. I know they’re here illegally but that’s for survival reasons. It sounds like the way the rule is being applied is the problem, not the rule itself.
Daniel Hernandez, former staff writer at the LA Weekly and the L.A. Times
I share the anger of over these racially motivated killings generated from inside the prison system. But Special Order 40 works. Revoking it won’t stop a few gangbangers practicing this disgusting crime. That will take true leadership and true coalitions.
Salam Al-Marayati, executive director, Muslim Public Affairs Council
Special Order 40 is critical to preserving and enhancing the level of cooperation between communities and law enforcement. The most effective law enforcement is that which is accepted and supported by any community those are not my words but the words etched in Washington, DC on the walls of the FBI headquarters. There are means to deal with violent criminals, whether they be citizens or undocumented immigrants, and law enforcement must pursue any and all means to ensure our security. When we achieve human security, i.e. security for the masses, then we are in a better position to improve national security. Adhering to civil liberties is not an inhibitor but an enhancer for human and national security.
Sen. Gilbert Cedillo (D-Los Angeles)
Special Order 40 ensures all L.A. residents report and assist LAPD with investigation of criminal activity. Repealing it would revoke a critical front line tool in community policing and criminal investigations. However it’s not a shield to defend known criminals and I trust Chief Bratton knows the difference.
Ramona Ripston, Executive Director, ACLU of Southern California
We support Special Order 40. We believe the job of a police officer is to protect people and be part of a public safety net. Special Order 40 has served Los Angeles well. It means people who have been crime victims are able to report it to the police and help the police maintain public safety. Police officers have limited time. If they’re going to be providing the service they’re supposed to be providing they can’t be going around asking people about their immigration status.
Douglas W. Kmiec, Professor of Constitutional Law and Caruso Family Chair in Constitutional Law, Pepperdine University
The LAPD may investigate and detain for federal immigration laws. Special Order 40 is a sound policy choice to forego that authority to obtain witness cooperation. Sound, that is, unless the person is a known gang member. That much of 40 needs modification.
Raoul Lowery Contreras, producer and anchor of “News and Views 61" on San Diego’s Channel 61
Special order 40 was designed and is implemented to prohibit LAPD officers from scouring the streets and conducting dragnets and sweeps victimizing a huge cohort of Latino Angelenos. Special Order 40 is a useful tool for law enforcement. It should not be changed.
Mark Cromer, Senior Writing Fellow for Californians for Population Stabilization
Discarding or significantly altering Special Order 40 would let the police get criminals who are in the country illegally off the streets and into a deportation holding cell.
Eric Garcetti, Los Angeles City Council President
We need to look at the big picture and focus on creating a system that effectively deports criminals, encourages cooperation from victims and witnesses, and ensures the federal government accepts its responsibility as the enforcer of our nation’s immigration laws.
John Hope Bryant, founder, chairman and CEO, Operation Hope
Special Order 40 needs to be updated to meet the problems at hand today in Los Angeles. If someone is in jail, they are probably not the model citizens that Special Order 40 was presumably designed to protect. We didn’t want that person on the street to begin with, and may not want that same individual in our country either and by the way, race is irrelevant here. Wrong is wrong, and the law has to have substance as well as compassion. With an estimated 25% of the jail population also possibly here illegally, this answer gets even easier. As we say in my financial literacy courses, simply do the math.
Nancy Ramirez, Western Regional Counsel, Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund
Special Order 40 makes the community more secure, not less safe. It provides the police with additional tools to solve and prevent crimes. Recently, in Montgomery County, Maryland, an immigrant day laborer, whose immigration status is unknown, assisted police in solving a murder. We need Special Order 40 to promote this type of cooperation and assistance between the immigrant community and the police. This type of policy enhances public safety, not diminishes it.
Edward James Olmos, actor and political activist
Communication between the community and LAPD is the most important aspect of Special Order 40 The days when we had officers walking the beats is long gone, and it’s really sad. Driving through the neighborhood in a police car just isn’t the same. I hope we can improve communication, so we can become a better and stronger society. Because where we’re going is going to be much more intense than it is today. We must sit down and relate to one another and get this fixed.
Richard Riordan, mayor of Los Angeles, 19932001
Special Order 40 was the proverbial foot inside the door. Allowing checking on immigration status only when an arrest is made for violent crime, and reporting to the Immigration Service when a violent criminal is released from jail, were meritorious changes. The problem was that bureaucratic laziness, confusion and fear of being accused of racism resulted in failure of enforcement. Chief Bratton and Councilman Zine are right in clarifying Special Order 40.
Dennis P. Zine, City Council member, Third District
Needs Modification: Officers should be given every possible tool to get rid of urban terrorist gang members.Needs Clarity: The LAPD should implement the policy in a clear, consistent manner, not haphazardly.Needs Common Sense: Handcuff criminals, not police officers.
William Bratton, Chief, LAPD
There is a misrepresentation, misinterpretation, misunderstanding on the part of all the concerned parties here whether it is immigrant advocates, immigrant haters, the talk shows, drive-time radio talk-show hosts.
Jacquelyn Dupont-Walker, president, Ward Economic Development Corporation
The LAPD is one jurisdiction in this region. There is a possibility for unevenness if all the other jurisdictions are not following the same procedure. So Order 40, which seems to be even-handed, should be applied throughout the region. But all of us, when we’re stopped by police officers, are routinely asked for ID; I have some concern about gauging the intent of police officers who sometimes appear to have contrived reasons for stopping people. Clearly we need to be concerned about not reacting to a bad situation, but rather being proactive. Right now we’re reacting to the murder of this young man, because we see our own children and grandchildren. That’s not the atmosphere in which to make policy.