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16
Feb 2012
Daily News Editorial: Chief Beck should abandon changing L.A.'s vehicle impound policy

Whether he knows it or not, Charlie Beck has been handed a gift. The Los Angeles police chief has been given a way out of his unwise position on vehicle impounds.

Beck hoped this would be the week his proposal to stop the automatic 30-day seizures of unlicensed drivers' vehicles was voted into effect by the L.A. Police Commission. Instead, the week began with news that the state Legislature's legal counsel has questioned the legality of the planned changes. The city attorney has been called in to try to sort things out.

Instead of fighting, Beck should cut his losses and drop the whole thing. He can blame the state for throwing up this roadblock if that feels nicer than blaming himself and his advisers for their misjudgment.

The chief must have been surprised by the anger in the opposition to the impound policy shift he first presented late last year. Critics, including this editorial page, worry about lowering the disincentive to get behind the wheel of a car or truck without a license to demonstrate the ability to drive. Although the issue has gotten mixed up with illegal-immigration politics - because undocumented residents account for many of the unlicensed drivers affected - it is essentially about safety for motorists and pedestrians.

Beck has changed his plan a little but generally dug in his heels, arguing that it would create a more fitting punishment for the crime, make enforcement more consistent, and encourage unlicensed drivers to obtain insurance. He still has not adequately answered the safety concerns. The longer the controversy drags on, the more his reputation suffers.

He should think of the state's determination as his license to walk away from the whole mess.

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