Crime & Justice

Los Angeles police union challenges vechicle impound policy

File photo: A DWI Checkpoint in East Haven, Connecticut
File photo: A DWI Checkpoint in East Haven, Connecticut

Listen to story

Download this story 0MB

The labor union that represents Los Angeles police officers is trying to block the department’s new, more lenient policy for unlicensed drivers stopped at DUI checkpoints. Chief Charlie Beck said the old policy was unfair to illegal immigrants.

In a statement on its blog, the Los Angeles Police Protective League said that state law requires officers to impound the car of every unlicensed driver officers stop at DUI checkpoints – and that failing to do so threatens public safety.

The League's board of directors wrote that the value of impounding vehicles driven by unlicensed drivers is twofold.

"First, the cost and inconvenience of recovering an impounded vehicle should discourage anyone from violating the license requirement. Second, an unlicensed driver who is willing to ignore the law is, at least temporarily, unable to further violate this law while his or her car is impounded."

LAPD Chief Charlie Beck said California law allows officers to use discretion. He’s ordered them to give drivers who are not drunk reasonable time to find another driver.

“Our position is that we are not going to immediately impound an individual’s vehicle that’s stopped at a DUI checkpoint just for the mere fact that they are unlicensed," Lt. Andy Neiman said. "We are going to allow them a reasonable time to obtain a licensed driver so that they can remove the vehicle.”

The chief, who changed the policy last month, said the practice of immediately impounding every car unfairly hurts otherwise law-abiding undocumented immigrants, who are unable to obtain driver's licenses.

Neiman emphasized that officers are giving all the drivers they stop time to find someone to drive their cars home.

“In fact, we do not even check immigration status at any of these checkpoints," Neiman said.

The police union has filed a grievance against the policy change, seeking to reverse it.

"If the City and Department feel strongly that the new LAPD policy is somehow more enlightened than state law on this matter – we can’t imagine how it would be – they should devote the necessary resources and time to have the California Vehicle Code changed," the League wrote on its blog.