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Officers union sues city, LAPD over impound law

April 19, 2012 12:00:00 AM PDT
Police officers now say they want direction from the courts and not Police Chief Charlie Beck on when to seize the car of an unlicensed driver.

The Los Angeles Police Protective League, which is the police union, is suing the city and LAPD over Beck's impound law. The complaint states that officers are caught between state law and what the chief says is the spirit of the law.

"We believe that the policy change conflicts with state law and the legislature's desire to impound and hold cars for people who are driving without drivers licenses," said Tyler Itzen of the L.A. Police Protective League.

Beck disagrees however, saying he thinks the position is defensible.

The debate is focused on the chief's Community Caretaking doctrine, which is backed by the police commission and the city attorney's office. It is supportive of undocumented immigrants who do not have driver's licenses but do have valid ID, car registration, proof of insurance and a clean driving record.

Under the proposed change, an officer would have the discretion to release the car to a designated driver without waiting 30 days. While the police union says impoundment laws demand a strict interpretation, the chief says there are two statutes that dictate what officers may do and that discretionary policy would improve public safety.

"I believe this will encourage people to do those things, to have insurance, to drive with identification, to be responsible motorists," said Beck.

But Itzen says the law only complicates police work.

"Officers are stopping people now and being told, 'You can't impound my car, because I know what the chief wants and I know what the new order says," said Itzen. "I have heard that there are officers who are less inclined to impound cars because they don't want to be stuck in the middle of this conflict."

The impound policy it is set for implementation on April 22. The police union meantime is awaiting word from the court.

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