Message from Sheriff Jim McDonnell Regarding Senate Bill 54: LASD Stayed the Course and True to Our Mission


For the past several months, you may have seen the headlines in the newspapers, or other media coverage of the immigration protests held in front of the Hall of Justice and elsewhere that criticized the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department (LASD) for our position on what was inaccurately being called California’s “Sanctuary State” Bill.

Today, I am proud to share with you that our persistence in communicating our points of view with the Governor, state legislators, and our public has resulted in significant changes to Senate Bill 54 (SB 54) that has now passed with the state legislature’s vote.  SB 54 is headed for Governor Brown’s signature.  

Early on, it became clear that SB 54 had strong community and elected sentiment behind the bill’s passage.  We focused on the aspects of the bill pertaining specifically to its impact on law enforcement.  The most recent amendments to SB 54 largely reflect the respect that the Governor and his staff has for the LASD and what we need to maintain public safety.  Members of the state legislature called upon us to learn about what the LASD has already implemented in protecting the rights of immigrants in our custody and respecting the rights of individuals in our communities.  SB 54 is now a very different bill from when it was first authored.  The most recent amendments brokered by Governor Brown, preserve our ability to work with federal law enforcement on crime fighting taskforce operations.  Furthermore, the amended SB 54 recognizes the LASD custody’s implementation of the California Trust Act of 2014 and the Truth Act of 2016 as a statewide model of how the Department protects the rights of inmates by following the strict legal guidelines that dictate the safe and legal transfer to the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) of only those inmates who meet very specific criteria.

Through these challenging months, it was difficult to hear protestors say our Department is anti-immigrant when nothing was further from the truth.  Despite the critic’s skepticism, we remained faithful in communicating the facts about our policy and procedures.  We called upon our communities to listen and rise above the rhetoric.  Faith leaders, non-profits and community groups invited us to speak at their community forums.  I, as your Sheriff, and our Department consistently re-stated our policy that we do not ask about the immigration status of anyone.  Public trust is our currency.  We depend upon people reporting crimes and coming forth as eyewitnesses to crimes without fear of deportation.  

Ultimately, Sacramento listened and amended the bill.  While not perfect, SB 54 is now indeed a tribute to the LASD of how a law enforcement agency gets it right.

This is where I would like to sincerely thank all of you.  Had it not been for the outstanding strong community relationships you have already established in the communities you serve, we might have faced overwhelming opposition.  Throughout this debate our public could see that this was not about California versus President Trump, but about public safety and the trust we hold within our communities.

Moving forward, I hope that this process has taught us the value of patience and working as a team, to have faith in the many things we do well, to stay the course in growing our community outreach and, as always, to count on our ability to work through challenging issues together.