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13
Dec 2011
Amnesty for Unlicensed, Uninsured Drivers with Unregistered Cars

So much for public safety.

Obedient as always to the will of his political masters, Chief Charlie Beck is moving rapidly to please the mayor's desire to all but halt impounding of cars of motorists driving without a license.

In a follow-up to the recent decision to halt impounding cars of unlicensed drivers at DUI checkpoints, Beck and Deputy Chief Michel Moore presented the Police Commission on Tuesday with the outline of a plan to put the full burden on patrol officers to decide who and when to order vehicles towed away from a traffic stop or to stand around waiting for a licensed driver friend of the motorist to arrive.

"It's a balancing act of ensuring that the impound section meets the severity of the underlying circumstances," Moore explained vaguely.

In a two-hour hearing on the subject, there were only vague references to what this is really about: What to do about the tens of thousands of unlicensed and often uninsured illegal immigrants driving unregistered cars and posing a significant public safety hazard and imposing significant costs on all other motorists

What is being proposed is nothing but a back door way to provide licenses to illegal immigrants by surrendering the only tool there is to get them off the road: Seizure of their cars for 30 days.

Make no mistake about where I stand: It is insane for us to have millions of people without identities in our society because our elected leaders are unable to decide on an immigration policy. It is insanity squared for California with the largest number of illegal immigrants to refuse to allow them to take driver tests and become licensed so that we have a thumb print and photograph

How does it benefit any of us to encourage people who are invisible to law enforcement, subject to exploitation and victimization and disconnected from personal responsibility because they are non-persons.

In the absence of a breakthrough in immigration policy, it's in the interest of everyone as a minimum to know who these people are, to have records of their identities and require they carry valid government-issued identification.

The parade of people of good intentions who appeared before the commission to urge an end to what they believe is unfair treatment of illegal immigrants who make up so many of those faced with huge bills or the loss of their vehicles because of 30-day impounds.

For years, impounds have been the only tool to get these unlicensed drivers off the road -- a largely ineffective tool since it barely made a dent in the problem.

Police brass juked and jived around the hard questions that were asked by Commissioner Alan Skobin, himself a reserve deputy sheriff who know[s] what it's like to make discretionary decisions at traffic stops.

He expressed a long list of concerns including what's the point of writing a ticket to someone whose identity is in question and the failure to go after registered vehicle owners who often front for drivers who can't get licenses.

"It's like the vehicle's being used in a crime and you're ignoring it," said Skobin. "I don't understand why we wouldn't want to take the vehicle off the road as a matter of public safety. I don't think there should be a lot of sympathy there."

The police union warned the plan would result in tragedies.

"The easily predictable result of this action is that we will have more people killed on our streets in Los Angeles," according to a statement by the Los Angeles Police Protective League.

What never came up was what the city's liability is when an unlicensed driver gets behind the wheel and causes a terrible accident within hours or days after getting his car back after a traffic stop.

The "discretionary" decision made by the officer at the scene will be dissected and it will cost the city millions of dollars if jurors feel the car involved in a serious crash should have been impounded.

This is not the way to fix the real problem: If illegal immigrants can get licenses, they can be prosecuted for not having insurance or failing to register their cars.

Anti-immigrant groups might not like that but it would save lives instead of cost them like this proposed policy.

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