Calling it an act of “humanity” and “compassion” for Los Angeles’ illegal immigrants, the city’s police commission yesterday approved a controversial plan to limit the cases in which police officers impound vehicles of drivers operating without a license, reports the Los Angeles Times. The commission made the move despite warnings from Los Angeles County Dist. Atty. Steve Cooley and state lawyers that the new policy is illegal.
It is a victory for immigration-rights advocates as well as Police Chief Charlie Beck, who has championed the new policy despite sharp criticism at public meetings, on talk radio, and by some law enforcement officials. The shift is significant in a city with a large illegal immigrant population. For decades, the Los Angeles Police Department has tried to convince immigrants that police are not the enemy, and Beck hopes the new rules will improve relations and encourage undocumented immigrants to cooperate with police. The new policy will apply to unlicensed drivers who are pulled over for minor traffic infractions, ranging from a broken tail light to speeding. Unlicensed drivers who meet several requirements — including having auto insurance, valid identification, and no previous citations for unlicensed driving — will still have cars impounded but no longer face a 30-day hold, with fines that often exceed $1,200.