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Chief Beck says illegal immigrants need 'fair' treatment. Agree?

October 24, 2012 |  9:20 am

LAPD Chief Charlie Beck

Through a series of actions in the last year, LAPD Chief Charlie Beck has emerged as a leading voice in the national debate about illegal immigration.

Talk back LAHis first move made it easier for unlicensed drivers — a group dominated by illegal immigrants — to avoid having their cars impounded. He then spoke in favor of issuing driver's licenses to illegal immigrants. Last month, he took that stance a big step further, announcing that suspected illegal immigrants arrested for low-level crimes would no longer be turned over to federal authorities for deportation.

Why has Beck made this such a legacy issue? Times reporter Joel Rubin explains in a story:

A decade ago, Charlie Beck watched as William J. Bratton arrived in Los Angeles and began rebuilding a department deeply tarnished by the Rodney J. King beating, riots and corruption scandals. Bratton made many changes as chief, but Beck was particularly taken by his aggressive effort to rebuild the LAPD's broken relationship with the African American community, which over and over Bratton said was a cornerstone to his success.

Beck carried the lesson with him when he replaced Bratton three years ago as chief of the nation's second-largest police force. With nearly half of the city's population Hispanic and the federal government's aggressive efforts to identify and deport illegal immigrants sowing fear in immigrant communities, Beck believed that his success or failure as chief rested heavily on whether he could replicate Bratton's success — but this time with Latinos.

In an interview, Beck said he was driven to act on some level by his sense that he can and should help level the playing field for illegal immigrants, whom he said have suffered unfairly from crude federal immigration laws. But Beck said those personal views were not as important as his more practical belief that extending an olive branch to immigrants in Los Angeles was vital to the LAPD's crime-fighting efforts.

What do you think of Beck's actions?

Beck's shift has won wide support at City Hall and among immigration advocates. But he has also endured loud criticism that he is going soft on criminals and is out of line by picking and choosing the people who should be subject to the nation's immigration laws. Some of the harshest attacks came on the issue of relaxing car impound rules. The L.A. police union accused Beck of overstepping his legal authority and filed suit to block the plan. Others warned that the chief would have "blood on his hands" because the rules would allow unlicensed drivers back on the roads more quickly, where they could cause accidents.

Share your views below.

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Photo: LAPD Chief Charlie Beck has made reaching out to illegal immigrants a key component of his management strategy. Credit: Anne Cusack / Los Angeles Times

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