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Police union sues city, LAPD over new auto impound policy

The Los Angeles Police Protective League files suit over a controversial policy that will limit cases in which officers impound vehicles of drivers operating without a license. The new procedures put officers in conflict with state laws and could expose them to civil liability, according to the suit.

April 20, 2012|By Paloma Esquivel, Los Angeles Times

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 lawsuit filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court. The union, which represents more than 9,900 sworn LAPD employees, is asking a judge to determine the validity of the policy and impose an injunction to stop it from being implemented.

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 on minor traffic infractions who have auto insurance, valid identification and no previous citations for unlicensed driving would have their cars impounded but 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 policy in conflict with the vehicle code, according to the plaintiffs.

"If they follow this policy, we believe they are in violation of state law," said Tyler Izen, president of the officers union. "We need that resolution."

paloma.esquivel@latimes.com

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