A few weeks ago, I wrote here on PJ Media of a proposal to change the way Los Angeles Police Department officers deal with unlicensed drivers and the cars they are found to be driving. As things now stand, when an LAPD officer stops a driver for a traffic violation and finds him to be unlicensed, the officer issues a citation (or in some circumstances makes an arrest) and, under the authority of the California Vehicle Code, impounds the car for 30 days. This, say advocates for illegal immigrants, imposes an unfair burden on those whose immigration status precludes them from obtaining a driver’s license in the first place.
Among those advocates for illegal immigrants are the mayor of Los Angeles, Antonio Villaraigosa, and the man he appointed as police chief, Charlie Beck. Although one may infer that it is the mayor who instigated the proposed change to this policy, it is Chief Beck who has publicly advocated that unlicensed drivers be granted the opportunity to avoid having their cars impounded by turning them over to a licensed driver they might be able to summon to the scene.
Fine. The debate over how hospitable to illegal aliens Los Angeles will be is a long-running one, but in this latest attempt to advance their cause the illegal alien lobby, with the willing participation of Chief Beck, is using subterfuge in an attempt to avoid engaging in that very debate. Under the Los Angeles city charter, it is the civilian police commission that sets policy for the police department, subject to review by the city council. By calling his proposed change a modification of “procedure” rather than of “policy,” Beck is claiming the authority to impose it on his own, without the endorsement of his titular superiors. This is a naked attempt on the chief’s part to provide political cover to the commission, the city council, and the mayor.
The irony is that only one person on the police commission, all of whose members were appointed by the mayor, has expressed any reservations about the proposed change, and that the change would likely find little opposition in the famously left-leaning city council. Why not call this proposal what it transparently is, i.e., a change in policy, and let the mayor, his political appointees, and the city council go on the record as to where they stand?
Because neither the mayor, nor his political appointees, nor the members of the city council like to hear their phones ring with calls from angry constituents, that’s why. Los Angeles may have long ago been lost to the forces of liberalism and political correctness, but there are still remnants of resistance that can be mobilized when such foolishness as this tickles the public’s antennae. Clearly it was the hope of all involved that the change would shimmer into permanence while escaping public scrutiny and the hue and cry that might result had they been more forthright with their intentions.
Sadly for them, hue and cry is exactly what they got. The issue became fodder for local talk-radio hosts, including L.A.’s high priests of the radio rabble-rousers, KFI’s John and Ken, the mere mention of whose names sends a chill up the spine of most Southern California politicians. Listeners were encouraged to attend a subsequent meeting of the police commission, this one held on Jan. 17 at a church in the San Fernando Valley, a more conservative area of Los Angeles if indeed any can be described as such. Hundreds did so, prompting Beck and the commission to take the legally suspect action of limiting access to the meeting room.
Among those who addressed the commission during the public-comment portion of the meeting was Don Rosenberg, whose 25-year-old son Drew was killed in a 2010 traffic collision involving an unlicensed driver. The proposed change, he said, would invite more tragedies such as his family has endured. The man who killed Drew, he said, had been arrested for driving without a license some months before and had his car impounded, but he was able to retrieve it a day later. Incredibly, Rosenberg was silenced by commission president Richard Drooyan after his remarks exceeded the mere two minutes allotted to him. Speaker after speaker then stood to express support for Rosenberg and opposition to Beck’s proposal, providing a bit of theater for which the chief was unprepared.
Or was he? Beck told those in attendance that he was unable to address the specifics of the issue because it was not on the commission’s agenda for the evening. Given that this has been the dominant question facing the commission for the last month, one must wonder why it was not on the agenda if not to avoid airing a proposal so many Angelenos find preposterous.
The chicanery doesn’t end there. Writing to the Los Angeles city council on behalf of the National Lawyers Guild and the Southern California Immigration Coalition, attorney Colleen Flynn called for the recusal of Councilman Mitch Englander from any council action relating to Beck’s proposal, citing what she claims is a conflict of interest. (Englander has thus far been the only member of the council to speak out against Beck’s proposal.) “Councilman Englander’s uncle, Michael Englander,” Flynn wrote, “and his public relations firm – Englander, Knabe & Allen – represent the [Los Angeles Police Protective League], which has lobbied City Councilmembers to block Chief Beck’s procedural change.”
There are some problems with Flynn’s claim, chief among which is the fact that Michael Englander has been dead for 18 years. Harvey Englander, Mitch’s other uncle, is a partner in the public relations firm to which she alluded, though Mitch has never had any financial interest in the company. But why let such niggling details stand in the way of advancing the interests of illegal aliens?
Perhaps most disturbing in all of this is witnessing the further transformation of the role of police chief from one of law enforcement to one of political partisanship. Witness Chief Beck’s recent acquiescence in allowing the Occupy L.A. rabble to linger on the City Hall lawn for two months while the mayor and the city council dithered on what to do about them. On the issue of impounding cars driven by unlicensed drivers, Beck gave the game away during an unguarded, open microphone conversation he had during a break in the Dec. 13 police commission meeting. Expressing his dismay at the resistance to his proposed change, he asked the person seated next to him on the dais, “Why is it so hard to do the right thing?” In other words, this debate is not one with reasonable arguments on both sides, but rather one in which he is trying to do the “right thing” while those who oppose the change, including the great majority of his own police officers, are of course wrong if not utterly evil.
One might argue that the right thing for the chief of police to do is to follow the law. Why is that so hard?