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Portland police now have more latitude to impound vehicles

The updated policies give officers more latitude in having vehicles impounded after street racing and under several other circumstances.
Credit: Portland Police Bureau

PORTLAND, Ore. — Portland police now have more latitude to have vehicles towed and impounded due to an update to the Portland Police Bureau's policy that went into effect more than two weeks ago.

In a statement issued Saturday about the policy changes, PPB said the change was intended partly to address street takeovers common in illegal racing. But the policy also allows for towing for other traffic violations.

Two city code violations introduced recently to address street racing — Unlawful Street Takeover and Unlawful Staging of a Street Takeover Event — allow for towing under the new policy.

RELATED: Portland police arrest man impersonating officers during street racing detail

Drivers who do not have a license, have a suspended license, or who don't have insurance can also have their vehicles towed under the PPB directive.

"This change brings the Bureau in line with both neighboring law enforcement agency common practice and state law authorization for towing," the agency said. "Additionally, the change was supported in public comments and among internal subject matter experts and stakeholders within the Bureau, and will serve as an additional tool for the Bureau to increase traffic safety."

While the policy change does not obligate officers to have vehicles towed in all of these circumstances, they are authorized to "exercise discretion" in choosing when to impound vehicles if the situation would create undue hardship or risk.

"Such circumstances may include, but are not limited to: the presence of young children, elderly, or disabled persons; vehicles equipped for use by such persons; and vehicles used as homes," PPB continued. "Members of the public are encouraged, before driving on public roads, to verify that their driver's license is current and valid and that they have current proof of insurance."

RELATED: Portland police plan crackdown on illegal street racing

Vehicles can be towed under a number of other circumstances that were not updated under the new directive — including when the vehicle poses a threat to public safety, for "safekeeping,"  if it's believed stolen, as evidence in a criminal case, or for parking violations.

PPB's review of the towing policy began in August of 2019, and the agency said that it had not been updated since 2013. The agency said that it posted it for public comment twice during the pandemic as the review process dragged on.

Several commenters voiced support for towing vehicles if the driver lacked insurance or a valid license, as well as for street takeovers. There were not many comments on the policy update, and most were short, but the group Portland Copwatch contributed a lengthy critique of PPB's directive.

Though PPB's statement about the policy change was issued on Saturday, the document itself notes that it was published back on March 31 and went into effect April 30.