L.A. Times Issues Non-Correction Correction on Special Order 40
In this post, I noted an error in an L.A. Times article about Special Order 40:
The L.A. Times reports:
The Los Angeles Police Department’s landmark Special Order 40, which prohibits officers from inquiring about the immigration status of suspects, has come under an aggressive assault by anti-illegal immigrant activists who argue that it ties the hands of police.
Unfortunately, this is misinformation, as Special Order 40 actually does no such thing. You can read Special Order 40 here. Contrary to today’s Times article, Special Order 40 does not prohibit officers from inquiring about the immigration status of suspects.
Today the paper publishes this non-correction correction:
Police and immigrants: An article in the April 11 California section about a lawsuit against the Los Angeles Police Department stated that the department’s landmark Special Order 40 “prohibits officers from inquiring about the immigration status of suspects.” The 1979 order states that “officers shall not initiate police action with the objective of discovering the alien status of a person.” Although officers have long interpreted the order as a prohibition, LAPD officials said they don’t consider Special Order 40 a blanket ban on inquiring about immigration status.
That’s weaselly. The paper made a claim about what Special Order 40 actually says. That claim was wrong. Period. The paper should have the guts to admit it. Words mean things, and Special Order 40 simply doesn’t say what the paper claimed it did.
I recently suggested how the correction should have been worded:
An April 11 article stated that the Los Angeles Police Department’s landmark Special Order 40 prohibits officers from inquiring about the immigration status of suspects. It does not.
That’s the clear admission of error that the paper should have made — but did not.
And, looking at the bigger picture, there is an interesting story lurking under the surface, which I mentioned to the Readers’ Representative: why do officers interpret Special Order 40 as a prohibition against asking suspects about their immigration status, when the order itself actually contains no such prohibition?
Sadly, the paper shows no sign of interest in this critical issue — which, as I have explained, could be an important factor in helping Los Angeles deport illegal alien criminals. There are about 34,000 alien criminals a year that we should be deporting, but aren’t. Does the L.A. Times not consider this a big enough story to cover?
Well you might think that, but reading that to a couple of LEO friends, they said that the news report was correct if not in the law but in the meaning of the law, and for damn sure how anyone outside of the law would see it.
“officers from inquiring about the immigration status of suspects.” The 1979 order states that “officers shall not initiate police action… ”
Since almost every “police action” is started by an inquiry (questioning) if an officer was to bring up or question the immigration status of whoever he/she was questioning, they would be in the wrong, because “officers shall not initiate police action with the objective of discovering the alien status of a person.” allows anyone including the suspect to state or suspect that the LEO had initiated the questioning for the sole purpose of determining the immigration status of the subject.
This is what our LEOs have to think about every time they stop someone of color. Including black.
It’s a dangerous job with no thanks that pays little.
Papa RayPapa Ray (035e8c) — 4/28/2007 @ 7:37 am
Does the L.A. Times not consider this a big enough story to cover? It does not.DRJ (41a330) — 4/28/2007 @ 11:46 am
Papa Ray –
So what you’re saying is that the Order should be interpreted to mean “don’t ask about the immigration status of a suspect” because of tinfoil hat types who will then claim that any question about immigration status at any point of the arrest proceedings proves that the entire police action was nothing more than a sham to cover up an attempt to hunt down illegals?
SO40 is written in exceedingly plain English. Interpretation as a prohibition requires both conspiracy theory and an intellectually-dishonest reading, most likely only on the first half of the first point under “Procedure”. In fact, it would be impossible to follow item II in Procedure without inquiring as to immigration status. Same for item III. While we’re at it, the entire wording of the Purpose and Policy sections indicates that SO40 mostly exists to keep the threat of immigration arrest and deportation away from people who report crimes, not the people who commit them.
In other words – yes, I read the entirety of SO40. Did you?Rick Wilcox (71646f) — 4/29/2007 @ 2:01 pm
All they have to do is ask at the station once they have validly arrested someone for an unrelated and legitimate reason.Patterico (5b0b7f) — 4/29/2007 @ 2:03 pm
Sadly, I agree with Papa Ray’s description of the behavior and beliefs of police officers in my area. (Sheriff’s departments are a different story.) Police officers at all levels are unwilling to ask about immigration status because they fear tainting a valid arrest, not to mention more generalized concerns about protests from family, MALDEF or LULAC. It’s safer for the officer’s career and easier on the police department if everyone ignores immigration status except in the most serious offenses.DRJ (41a330) — 4/29/2007 @ 2:22 pm
DRJ –Rick Wilcox (71646f) — 4/29/2007 @ 2:30 pm
Police behavior, however, does not change the wording or intent of the Special Order.
Even the SMEEL A TIMES corrections are incorrect lieskrazy kagu (9e308b) — 4/29/2007 @ 8:29 pm
I agree and fortunately our border sheriffs check immigration status. However, even the most clear-cut and understandable laws won’t do any good if the police won’t or can’t enforce them.DRJ (3e5f88) — 4/29/2007 @ 8:39 pm
Incidentally, Rick, I live in Texas and my comments weren’t intended to address California law in general or this Special Order in particular.DRJ (3e5f88) — 4/29/2007 @ 8:43 pm
Fair enough. I think I was responding more to the (admittedly superficial) similarities between your statement and the Times‘ non-correction. In my defense, I’m on Vicodin for a dental issue.
In contrast to your pointing out that the intent of SO40 is rapidly approaching irrelevance due to the police’s ineffectiveness/reluctance to enforce immigration laws as a point of procedure during legitimate police actions, the Times has decided to act as if police behavior does, in fact, change the meaning of SO40, or that its intent is somehow up for debate. Much like Papa Ray seems to have, I wonder if the Times has decided to stake their entire interpretation of SO40 on one sentence, rather than the entire text.Rick Wilcox (bb4b76) — 4/30/2007 @ 4:46 am
More bad news for the LA Times … and other newspapers, too.DRJ (3e5f88) — 4/30/2007 @ 5:36 pm
You raise an interesting point. I think police officers are understandably reluctant to put their careers on the line for a policy that offers few rewards and significant risks. Why should any police officer enforce California’s or any Western state’s immigration laws when 1/3 to 1/2 of the population will hate them for doing so?DRJ (3e5f88) — 4/30/2007 @ 5:59 pm
Why should any police officer enforce California’s or any Western state’s immigration laws when 1/3 to 1/2 of the population will hate them for doing so?
I think it all boils down to whether or not one takes the hardline, black-and-white view that “undocumented aliens” are automatically guilty of a crime, thus “criminals”. If one does not take that view, then police have no incentive without external prodding (federal grant mandates?). If one does take that view, then the opinion of illegal immigrants on police action against illegals is effectively moot, thus obviating the need for police incentive.Rick Wilcox (71646f) — 4/30/2007 @ 7:00 pm
Are you talking about the average police officers’ views of illegal immigration or the public’s views? At the risk of over-generalizing, I’ve never met a police officer who didn’t view illegal immigration as a problem – although some view it as a more serious problem than others see it – but the police officers I know don’t want to make immigration checks and arrests because of the PR/bureaucratic downside. The people in my town are clearly pro-enforcement yet the police have nevertheless adopted a hands-off policy. It’s hard to explain.DRJ (3e5f88) — 4/30/2007 @ 7:28 pm