The City of Escondido announced Thursday that it will review its police department after a well-known watchdog group raised concerns over the department's controversial towing program.
The American Civil Liberties Union released a report alleging that the Escondido Police Department is violating state law with its checkpoint program.
ACLU Executive Director Kevin Keenan says they have been concerned with the misuse of checkpoints for years. They believe Escondido is using theirs for immigration purposes, and subsequently benefit financially from the checkpoints by using their own towing service.
In response, the City of Escondido said its finance department will conduct an internal review of the department's towing fees. The report should be complete by March 29.
“The City made every effort to ensure the towing fees we established reflect our costs," said Escondido City Manager Clay Philips in a statement. "However, to address questions raised by the media, I have asked the Finance Department to conduct a review of our towing fees."
ACLU responded to the review by saying they are still not happy with the outcome, since the city has still not agreed to an internal audit. The group is sending a letter to the Escondido City Clerk to request copies of the financial records.
In the ACLU report “Wrong Turn: Escondido’s Checkpoints and Impound Practices Examined”, ACLU alleges that Escondido has been creating new expenses to charge higher tow truck fees and then pocket the rest.
Chief Jim Maher tells our media partner the North County Times that the report is biased and is aimed at stopping the department's checkpoints.
He also said the checkpoints are used to make Escondido streets safer, not to generate money for the city.
Still, the ACLU says their practices are questionable.
“They’ve [raised] the number of staff people they say it takes to administer towing to very few hours, five to seven years ago to tremendous hours today. And we're concerned that their real interest is profit making and going after immigrants,”
Requests for a statement from Escondido police department were not returned.