LAPD rescinds vehicle impound policy

Joel Rubin (Los Angeles Times) | September 28, 2013

Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck on Friday evening quietly rescinded the department’s car impound policy, a controversial set of rules Beck put in place last year to be more lenient on immigrants in the country illegally but that a judge found violated state law.

The move marked the latest setback for Beck in the long-running battle over the impound rules. In an interview Saturday the chief reiterated his belief that the policy — called Special Order 7 — was legal and necessary, saying that the recent court ruling that struck down the impound rules “undermines the authority of the police department to regulate the conduct of its officers.”

Beck declined to say whether lawyers for the city would appeal the decision by L.A. County Superior Court Judge Terry Green. That, Beck said, was a decision for City Atty. Mike Feuer. Beck, however, signaled strongly that an appeal was likely, saying he “looks forward to the next phase of the judicial process.”

Despite his disagreement with the judge, Beck said he had no choice but to rescind the impound policy in order to comply with Green’s finding that it could not stand because it was in conflict with the state’s vehicle code. Prior to Beck’s move, it had been widely expected that city lawyers would try to keep Special Order 7 in place during the lengthy appeals process by asking a state appeals court to set Green’s ruling aside pending their decision.

A spokesman for Feuer did not return calls seeking comment on whether the city attorney would still request the stay of Green’s ruling from the appellate court. Michael Kaufman, an attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union, which has joined the city in defending the impound rules, said his group would do so with or without the city’s help.

Under the terms of Special Order 7, if officers stopped an unlicensed driver who met several requirements — including having auto insurance, valid identification and no previous citations for unlicensed driving — officers could no longer invoke the part of the state vehicle code that allowed them to confiscate the vehicle for 30 days, a punishment that came with fines and charges often exceeding $1,200.

In a city with an estimated 400,000 immigrants who are in the country illegally and forbidden by state law from obtaining driver’s licenses, Beck and the LAPD’s civilian oversight board, which approved the policy, argued that Special Order 7 was needed for moral and practical reasons.

The 30-day holds, they said, unfairly burdened such drivers, who often are poor and risk having cars seized that they need to drive to work or take their children to school. Beck said he expected the policy would encourage unlicensed drivers to take steps such as buying insurance to avoid the monthlong holds.

“It’s not so much that I am a dove on immigration,” Beck said in an earlier interview with The Times. “It’s that I’m a realist. I recognize that this is the population that I police. If I can take steps — legal steps — to make them a better population to police, then I will.”

Read more at: http://www.latimes.com/local/la-me-0929-lapd-impound-20130929,0,5043809.story

Photo credit: Christina House/Los Angeles Times

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