Military and Police

LA County Sheriff Orders Deputies to Kick Fellow Law Enforcement Officers Out of County Jails

The leftist, pro-open-borders, anti-police (especially anti-ICE) sentiment raging across our country is bad enough. But how disastrous is it when the anti-cop is a cop—a top cop? This story about the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department (LASD) is stomach-churning.

If I were working for L.A. County Sheriff Alex Villanueva, this politically saturated edict would have had me refusing an order and looking for a new job. I swore to uphold the Constitution, so how could I follow an order that violates it? If ICE agents are following their mandate, passed into law by the U.S. Congress, they are following the U.S. Constitution, and so should I. If you notice, the Democrats never argue the laws enforced by ICE were passed by Congress. They just change the subject.

Sheriff Villanueva said, “We are going to physically remove ICE from the county jails.” The implications arising from such a statement, coming from an alleged top law enforcement official of America’s largest county, is disconcerting. This is worse than certain anti-cop politicians who warn criminals that ICE is coming, so criminal illegal aliens can escape. I suppose the sheriff would support this action, too.

Why worse? Because Sheriff Villanueva doesn’t work for some progressive mayor who is ordering him to do stupid stuff. The county cops are under his direct stupidity. This sheriff, and the left generally, is guilty of stretching the fabric of society by politicizing the rule of law. This politicization is establishing a multi-tiered “social” justice system. Hell, American crooks don’t get some of the legal protections illegal alien criminals do. Just watch as conservative Republicans suffer through witch-hunts based on alleged “offenses” with zero evidence, while progressive Democrats get away with…well, everything, despite tons of evidence.

It’s also worse because this sheriff, who is apparently more committed to partisan politics than to law enforcement, is pitting one group of law enforcement officers (sheriff’s deputies) against another (ICE agents). If this sheriff truly believes, as so many on the left assert, that today’s ICE agents are the equivalent of a Gestapo, he’s mentally unbalanced. Someone should take away his gun immediately. This type of leftist historical conflation is a disease. It pushes people past stretching to shredding the fabric of society.

Am I being overdramatic? Think about it. Law enforcement officers at all levels view each other as an extended family. When one cop meets another, either socially or professionally, there is an instant bond. What happens when a sheriff orders his or her cops “to physically remove,” or prevent from entering a jail, on-duty federal law enforcement officials based on the sheriff’s personal political ideology? Nothing good, that’s for sure.

But Sheriff Villanueva is not done. He also plans to reduce the number of misdemeanor crimes that trigger ICE notifications from 150 to…who knows? From his public stance on the issue, I’m thinking zero wouldn’t be beyond his consideration. Although to be fair, the sheriff did say he’s restricting himself to “substantially” reducing the list of qualifying crimes. So, it’ll likely be somewhere above zero. One comes to mind, maybe two. He says he wants to honor the letter and spirit of California’s “Sanctuary State” law (SB 54).

The LASD’s own numbers show that in 2017, the jails transferred less than half of the criminals requested by ICE into federal custody. Just pause for a moment and imagine all the avoidable, innocent crime victims this policy is creating—oh, right, minor crime victims. Perhaps, someone from your family?

And, remember, just because the police arrest illegal aliens and hold them for misdemeanor crimes does not mean that person is not violent. I arrested suspects for misdemeanor crimes all the time who had violent felonies in their criminal histories and went on to commit violent felony crimes in the future.

Now, of course Americans must be released from jail on bond, if there is insufficient evidence to prosecute, or after they’ve completed their sentence. But this shouldn’t be true of illegal aliens who commit violent felonies, other felonies, or violent or multiple non-violent misdemeanors. Congress has authorized ICE to deport these criminals to keep Americans safe and to promote our nation’s quality of life. My brain feels like it’s folding in on itself when I try to understand someone arguing this logic. They’re actually making an affirmative argument for lawlessness. What kind of person does that? I guess an L.A. County sheriff does that.

Apparently, to no one’s surprise, the ACLU argues these criminal illegal alien misdemeanants deserve a second chance. Being the cynical cop I can be when dealing with anti-police leftists, I immediately thought: or third, sixth, or fifteenth chance. The formerly widely respected, now leftist, organization asserts the criminal justice system should deal with crimes committed by illegal aliens, not the immigration system.

In the vast majority of immigration cases, either you’re in the country legally or you’re not…and usually you’re not. If you’re in the country illegally, ICE has the proper jurisdiction to handle the case. Immigration and Customs Enforcement—see, they even went through the trouble to put it in the name. Local criminal justice should adjudicate any crimes and then turn the illegal aliens over to ICE. Well, at least, this is what sane counties do.

These criminal illegal aliens are people who shouldn’t be in the country to even commit a crime—felony or misdemeanor. And, yes, it is worse when someone who shouldn’t be here in the first place commits a crime rather than some homegrown scumbag. While the physical harm may be identical, sanctuary policies ignore the psychological injury to victims and their families. With the illegal miscreant, there is a sense that the crime would not have happened if the person hadn’t already broken a law to get into the U.S. and remain illegally. With American criminals, at least they have a right to be in the country. Nothing we can do about that. Not so with illegal aliens.

The open-borders left seems to feel it’s okay for illegal aliens to be here as long as they only commit “minor” crimes: misdemeanors. I’d invite you to peruse the L.A. County Bail Schedule for Infractions and Misdemeanors just to see the number of significant crimes that the pro-illegal-immigration left considers “minor.”

Hell, in L.A. County, a “sanctuary county,” it is against the law for an adult to smoke in a car with a minor passenger present because of the potential harm. But this same county is willing to risk criminal illegal aliens potentially harming its residents because its sheriff refuses to turn them over to ICE. You can bet the Steinle family up in San Francisco isn’t thrilled about not turning criminal illegal aliens over to ICE.

Still, my mind keeps coming back to this sheriff setting up law enforcement officers to work against each other. It’s easy to say, “We are going to physically remove ICE from the county jails.” But Sheriff Villanueva is not the one being ordered to potentially go hands-on with a fellow cop.

Deputies will have to tell brother and sister law enforcement officers they are not welcome in the L.A. County jails. They are the ones who will have to direct their comrades-in-arms to leave the facility. And if an ICE agent refuses to comply (which I doubt will happen), I suppose deputies will have to arrest and handcuff the federal cop for…what… trespassing? What does that encounter look like in real life? Has the sheriff thought about that? Does he care? Apparently not.

What does that do to the camaraderie that exists among law enforcement at all levels of government? This make me think back to the 1999 WTO riots in Seattle. Many law enforcement officers, from all levels of government, worked together in their various capacities. Seattle PD, Washington State Patrol troopers, King County Sheriff’s deputies, other local police agencies responding for mutual aid, federal agencies such as the Secret Service, ATF, and others. All were relying on each other for our safety and our lives. And that doesn’t count the number of times over my career I was at the jail and depended on King County corrections officers to assist with unruly (to say the least) suspects.

The sheriff and other L.A. County leftists who support him disrespect law enforcement officers and the bond they share, which is more important to society than people imagine. Cops have to trust each other that they will come to one another’s aid in any necessary circumstance. How narcissistic this L.A. County sheriff must be to disregard such an organic, remarkable, and nearly sacred connection cops enjoy…because of his personal, partisan, political viewpoint.

The looming question is: Will LASD deputies comply with the sheriff’s order? After all, he’s not complying with the “spirit and letter” of federal immigration law. So, if he’s leading by example, then what should he expect from those he’s leading?

The opinions expressed here by contributors are their own and are not the view of OpsLens which seeks to provide a platform for experience-driven commentary on today's trending headlines in the U.S. and around the world. Have a different opinion or something more to add on this topic? Contact us for guidelines on submitting your own experience-driven commentary.
Steve Pomper

Steve Pomper is an OpsLens contributor, a retired Seattle police officer, and the author of four non-fiction books, including De-Policing America: A Street Cop’s View of the Anti-Police State. You can read a review of this new book in Front Page Magazine and listen to an interview with Steve on the Joe Pags Show. Steve was a field-training officer, on the East Precinct Community Police Team, and served his entire career on the streets. He has a BA in English Language and Literature. He enjoys spending time with his kids and grand-kids. He loves to ride his Harley, hike, and cycle with his wife, Jody, a retired firefighter. You can find out more about Steve and send him comments and questions at www.stevepomper.com.

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