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Jan 2012
A grieving father and the cold face of authority: Are unlicensed drivers a threat to public safety?

Advocates for illegal immigrants like Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa argue that illegal immigrants should be given a pass to state laws requiring driver licenses, insurance and car registration as an act of compassion for the hardships they face.

The Legislature which is incapable of doing anything agreed to the point of barring the impounding of cars at DUI checkpoints, which makes at least a small amount of sense since the point is to get drunks off the road, not cite people for other types of infractions.

Obedient as always to the politicians, our own Police Chief Charlie Beck is prepared within days to take a giant leap farther by barring his officers who stop a motorist for a moving violation of one sort or another from ordering cars impounded just because the driver isn't licensed, insured or registered.

He intends to do so on his own authority on the flimsiest legal and bureaucratic logic as a matter of procedure under the discretion of the chief rather than as a matter of policy with the approval of the Police Commission or the City Council -- both of which are quite happy to have conspired with Beck to shield themselves from responsibility.

The issue came to a head Tuesday night at St. Nicholas Church in Northridge where a standing room only crowd of more than 300 confronted the commission at a rare night meeting if the commission in the San Fernando Valley. The event was covered by Chatsworth Patch, the Daily News and KTLA but ignored by the LA TImes, whatever meaning you would apply to that.

The commission chose not to put Beck's Impound Folly on the agenda so the chief and the commission did not have to respond to anything the public had to say during 90 minutes of condemnation that followed a routine one-hour meeting of boasting about the reduction in crime.

It was a noisy meeting, especially when Don Rosenberg got to the microphone to talk about how his son was killed by an unlicensed driver in 2010 and how the grief never ends for a loving father.

The statistics are clear enough that unlicensed drivers -- whether or not they are illegal immigrants -- are responsible for a disproportionate number of serious and fatal traffic accidents.

After all, that is why we require licenses and insurance and car registration -- it is to protect the public by closely regulating who gets behind the wheel of a potentially deadly vehicle.

Beck's job is to protect the public and to serve the public. His impound plan jeopardizes the public safety and is a disservice to the public.

The Police Commission, which unlike every other city commission, has shown itself capable of political independence and a willingness to put the public interest ahead of all other interests has a legal and moral duty to hold Beck fully accountable if he carries out this policy.

So far only Commissioner Alan Skobin has spoken out critically of Beck's plan. The others must do so and so must City Council members.

I, for one, have long supported giving driver's licenses to illegal immigrants if they pass the tests, get insurance and register their cars like the rest of us.

Driving a car has nothing to do with immigration status; he has to do with the safety of the community. Beck's Impound Folly jeopardizes the public safety and should be stopped.



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