Police double talk

August 16, 2007

EDITORIAL, Los Angeles Daily News

When federal agents busted down doors raiding medical marijuana dispensaries in Los Angeles in July, Los Angeles Police Department officers were their comrades in arms.

The department's assistance in the raids infuriated some City Council members, who chastised them Wednesday for cooperating with the Drug Enforcement Agency and for enforcing federal drug laws that are in conflict with California's medical-marijuana law - and the will of the public. They even threatened to forbid the LAPD from cooperating with the DEA, but that would require the council to actually take an unequivocal stand.

LAPD officials just brushed off the criticism, essentially telling the council to get over it. The department will continue to help the feds bust medical-marijuana dispensaries, they said, even though Chief William Bratton has declared the department supports the state law.

The explanation that officials offered was simple: The LAPD has a policy of enforcing federal laws.

That would make sense if it were a policy that the department actually followed. But the truth is that the LAPD only enforces the federal laws that it feels like enforcing.

Despite pressure from federal authorities and many residents of Los Angeles, the LAPD has refused to enforce immigration laws and officers don't ask about citizenship status except in the rarest instances.

The department has stuck to Special Order 40, which prohibits LAPD officers from asking people about their citizenship status. So much for working with the feds.

Medical-marijuana dispensaries exist legally under state law, but not under federal law. In L.A., city officials are finally trying to craft regulations that will make them less flagrant for feds to bust. But the DEA doesn't care what the city or the state does.

That leaves the LAPD in an awkward situation, but selectively picking which laws it will enforce and which it will ignore does nothing to enhance the department's credibility.



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