A proposed new policy by Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck could affect about 400 people arrested each year.
Beck's proposal is that illegal immigrants arrested for low-level crimes not be turned over to federal authorities.
The proposal must still be approved by the Los Angeles Police Commission.
"It strikes me as somebody who runs a police department that is 45% Hispanic and polices a city that is at least that, that we need to build trust in these communities and we need to build cooperation or we won't be prepared," Beck said.
The new rule would distance the LAPD from federal policies, and may have gained some traction from the Los Angeles City Council's reversal of its ban on marijuana dispensaries earlier this week.