LAPD Reconsiders Rules For Impounding Cars — Especially Undocumented Immigrants'
Taking its cues from the mayor, the Los Angeles Police Department is reconsidering its rules for impounding cars.
A current rule getting scrutiny is one that requires police to impound cars by people who don't have a license or who have had their license suspended. The proposed new rule would allow drivers caught driving without a license to have someone else to drive the car home for them, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Of course, this debate isn't just about driving without a license — it's about how to deal with undocumented immigrants who aren't allowed to obtain driver's licenses at all. Last month the National Lawyers Guild and the Southern California Immigration Coalition released a report accusing the police department of racial profiling and targeting immigrant drivers. Impounding fees can take a toll costing a few hundred dollars plus storage fees.
LAPD Chief Charlie Beck acknowledged that the change in policy was aimed at addressing the law's unfair burden on undocumented immigrants in an interview with the Los Angeles Times: "It's a fairness issue. There is a vast difference between someone driving without a license because they cannot legally be issued one and someone driving after having their license revoked."
The police union has been taking a hard line against the change. In a statement, the Los Angeles Police Protective League said, "The easily predictable result of this action is that we will have more people killed on our streets in Los Angeles."
The Times notes that two nationwide studies by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety concluded that 13 to 14 percent of drivers involved in fatal crashes did not have a valid license at the time. Another study from the 1990s conducted by the state DMV noted that unlicensed drivers were five times more likely to be involved in a fatal crash than licensed ones. But those studies did not distinguish between people who don't have licenses because they're undocumented immigrants and others who don't have licenses because they have one too many DUIs on their record.