A Central Coast city trying to turn a new leaf and develop better relationships with its citizens makes a big decision. King City is working to rebuild trust after some of its police officers were recently arrested for an alleged illegal impounding scheme. On Tuesday night, we heard both sides of the argument as the city adopts a new towing policy.
City leaders said the discussion of a new policy centers around the lack of nationwide immigration reform. The Monterey County District Attorney’s office said those alleged victims who were targeted in the towing scheme were poor and unlicensed. So city leaders are adopting new rules with leniency for some in the community.
"If we can amend the tow policy and be more lenient towards people, I think its just kind of one of those human rights, it's just the right thing to do," said King City Mayor Rob Cullen.
Now when someone's pulled over in King City, a car won't be automatically towed for minor infractions, as long as the driver is legally parked, insured, registered and no crimes were committed. The city said just because some are here illegally and can't get a drivers license, doesn't mean they should have their car taken away for that reason alone.
"It is important that as many unlicensed drivers that are currently operating vehicles on the roadways, that they have a pathway so that they can get licensed, then they can get registration and insurance for their vehicles," said Interim Police Chief Dennis Hegwood.
Next year that will change when a new state law authored by Central Coast Assemblyman Luis Alejo goes into affect allowing illegal immigrants to obtain a driver's certificate. But until then the city said patrol officers need to get permission from a sergeant before they can tow a car. Some said that's just complicating things.
"That's one of the main tools of a peace officer, they go through numerous amounts of hours of training to make those decisions," said King City resident Domingo Uribe.
Hegwood will also have to provide regular reports to the city, detailing which cars are towed and for what offense. Some said the new policy is sending the wrong message.
"I don't think myself that we should bend over backwards for people that are breaking the law," said a King City resident.
While others said it’s a step in the right direction.
"Maybe they're not here legally in this country. But you do not forget, they're the ones who put the food on our tables," said another King City resident.
Not all city council members approved of the changes on Tuesday night. However there were enough votes for it to pass. More oversight to the policy was also added and officers will get more training on the new procedures.