Law enforcement’s No. 1 priority has always been and will always be the safety of every Arizonan. As a police officer, I have a sworn duty to protect and serve, which is why I am asking that our legislators undo provisions of a law passed in 2018 that tied my hands in protecting the public. There are
two public safety reasons why allowing police officers the discretion to impound is important – it helps our officers and drivers and it keeps our roadways safe.
Impoundment is a tool that law enforcement should be able to use when a person who drives on a suspended license disregards the law and gets back behind the wheel. You need two things to drive in Arizona – a license and a vehicle. For a person’s license to be suspended they had to have committed a crime such as driving while under the influence or driving recklessly. As part of the repercussion for breaking Arizona laws, their license may be suspended. But what happens if you disregard that repercussion and choose to drive anyway? After 2018, essentially nothing.
A police officer used to be able to limit immediate access to your vehicle by impounding your vehicle, but now the only thing an officer can really do is cite a driver for driving on a suspended license and allow that driver to drive away from the stop even though they don’t have a valid driver’s license! Such a result makes no sense and certainly does not protect the public. We require driver’s licenses for a reason.
According to a study by the National Highway Traffic Administration, 75% of serious injury and fatal collisions were caused by drivers who should not have been driving. The previous law allowing a police officer to impound was to protect the general safety of Arizona citizens. When you don’t allow us to do our jobs, you see an increased number of those breaking the law. There have been numerous tragic stories in the last few months regarding drivers either seriously injuring or killing someone in a traffic accident when they never should have been driving in the first place. The most recent was a story of a young life lost too soon after she was hit by a driver driving while impaired. In addition to driving impaired, that driver was driving on a suspended license for a DUI. The driver should never have had access to his vehicle, and had he not, maybe this young person would still be alive. The ability to impound a vehicle for the driver driving on a suspended license was a tool that truly kept our communities safer. Without it, we and our families are all just a little more at risk.
— Rick Hyde is a resident of Phoenix and has worked in law enforcement for 45 years.