Escondido's mayor has assured residents that the leave of its police chief will not impact the city's controversial checkpoint program.
Escondido Police Chief Jim Maher was placed on paid administrative leave last week for undisclosed personnel reasons, according to the department.
Escondido Mayor Sam Abed said the checkpoints and Maher's leave are not related, and the program will continue in Maher's absence. A statement from the mayor's desk said that public comments about the checkpoints' discontinuation are "unfounded and untrue."
In fact, he said, the checkpoint programs will be strengthened in Maher's absence.
“Let me assure you that Police Department programs and policies, including checkpoints, will not only continue to be maintained, but they will be strengthened," Abed said. "They are City Council policies that are carried out by our City Manager through the Police Department.”
Civil rights activists say the checkpoints are designed to catch undocumented immigrants who don't have driver's licenses.
Critics such as the ACLU have also accused the city of profiting from the checkpoint program by contracting a tow-truck service to assist in the checkpoints. Drivers found to not have licenses must pay for the tow-truck services. The ACLU believes the payments generate money for the city.
The city and the police department have both denied the ACLU's allegations.
Maher has stated that he supports issuing drivers licenses to undocumented immigrants, but says they must look different from citizens' licenses. The statement attracted criticism from those who said he was bending to pressure from the Latino community critical of the checkpoint program.
Maher stated in a previous article that he supports Escondido's checkpoint program, and that it helps to keep Escondido streets safe.
The investigation into Maher's conduct is ongoing.