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Arizona 'show me your papers law' harmful, LAPD chief says

June 25, 2012 |  4:47 pm

Arizona 'show me your papers law' harmful, LAPD chief saysLos Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck on Monday responded to the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to strike down much of Arizona’s far-reaching immigration law. Although Beck said he supported much of the high court’s ruling, he was troubled by the decision to leave intact the portion of the law that requires police officers making lawful stops to determine the immigration status of people they suspect of being in the country illegally.

In comments to The Times, Beck called the “show me your papers” component of the Arizona law “bad policy,” outlining several reasons for his concern.

“One, it breaks down trust and limits cooperation in a large segment of the population we serve,” he said.

For decades, Beck and his predecessors have held firmly to the belief that an aggressive posture like the one in the Arizona law deters illegal immigrants from sharing with police information about crimes they suffered or witnessed out of fear of their immigration status being discovered. A long-standing policy in Los Angeles forbids officers from stopping someone for the sole purpose of determining if they are in the country legally.

“Two, it over-taxes our limited resources and … sets inappropriate law enforcement priorities by mandating what inquiries we make and which laws we enforce. As an example, the LAPD responds to almost a million calls for service each year. If even 5% of these contacts required immigration enforcement, the time and expense involved would literally cripple our ability to adequately respond to what should be our first priority, which is crime in the city of Los Angeles.”

Beck attributed a decade of falling crime rates in L.A. in part to the LAPD’s ability to make effective use of limited resources. A rule like “show me your papers” would amount to “wasting those scarce and expensive resources,” he said, and “locking up non-criminal illegal immigrants would have tragic public safety consequences.”

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Supreme Court immigrant decision draws mixed reaction in L.A.

-- Joel Rubin     

Photo: Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck. Credit: Los Angeles Times

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