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Los Angeles police union sues over impound policy

April 19, 2012 | 11:55 am

Police Chief Charlie Beck

The Los Angeles Police Protective League filed suit Wednesday against the city and its Police Department over a controversial policy that will limit cases in which police officers impound vehicles of drivers operating without a license.

The new procedures put Los Angeles police officers in conflict with state laws governing 30-day impounds and could expose them to civil liability, according to the suit filed in Los Angeles Superior Court. The union, which represents more than 9,900 sworn LAPD employees, is asking a judge to determine the validity of the procedures and impose an injunction to stop them from being applied.  

The policy was approved by the Los Angeles Police Commission in February, and Special Order 7, outlining the procedures, was issued last week. The policy is set to go into effect Sunday.

Police Chief Charlie Beck had advocated for the change, arguing that 30-day impounds place an unfair burden on illegal immigrants who cannot get a driver's license in California.

Under the policy, unlicensed drivers stopped for minor traffic infractions who have auto insurance, valid identification and no previous citations for unlicensed driving would have their cars impounded but would not face a 30-day hold. The fees for such holds can add up to more than $1,000.

Officers could also forgo impounding if a licensed driver were immediately available and had the permission of the registered owner to drive the vehicle away.

State law mandates the 30-day impounds for vehicles driven by unlicensed drivers, putting the new procedure in conflict with the vehicle code, according to the plaintiffs.

“Our lawsuit is based on our duty to fairly represent and protect the working conditions of LAPD officers,” Tyler Izen, president of the officers union, said in a statement.

“As sworn officers of the City of Los Angeles and peace officers of the State of California, they are required to enforce all applicable state traffic laws, irrespective of a traffic violator’s immigration status. Equally important is the duty of police officers to obey all administrative legal policies approved by the Police Commission and implemented by the Chief of Police.”


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-- Paloma Esquivel

Photo: Police Chief Charlie Beck. Credit: Bob Chamberlin / Los Angeles Times