LAPD Chief Charlie Beck: Changing controversial rules for impounding cars was 'right thing to do'
Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck said the department changed rules for impounding cars of unlicensed drivers at sobriety checkpoints in part because he didn't think it was being done properly.
Previously, LAPD officers at such checkpoints followed stringent protocols that called for them to impound a car whenever the driver was found not to have a valid license, regardless of whether the driver had been drinking. Those rules have drawn the ire of immigration advocacy groups that said they disproportionately targeted undocumented immigrants, who are not able to obtain licenses legally in nearly all U.S. states.
The new LAPD guidelines soften the department's stance somewhat. Police will be required to make an attempt to contact the registered owner of the stopped vehicle. If the owner is a licensed driver and can respond to the checkpoint in "a reasonable period of time," the officers will release the car to him or her. If the owner is unlicensed, officers will permit another person who is a licensed driver to take the car. If no one with a license is available, police will impound a vehicle. In any case, police will issue a citation to the unlicensed driver.
Beck said that since he took over the department more than a year ago, the checkpoint policy had "stuck in my craw as one of the things we weren't doing the right way." Beck said he decided to make the change after immigration rights advocates raised the issue with him anew in meetings this week.
"I'm tired of casting the net so wide," he said. "This is the right thing to do. There is a fairness issue here ... and we're trying to balance the needs of all segments of our community and keep the roads safe."
-- Joel Rubin and Ari B. Bloomekatz