News & Politics

California Police Arrested for Illegally Selling Impounded Cars of Poor Latino Immigrants

Locals say police misconduct and corruption has been rife in the small farming town for years.

Photo Credit: Chauvin

Locals of a California farming town called King City have been shaken by the news that the acting police chief and more than a handful of officers have been charged with corruption crimes including selling impounded cars of poor Latino people, Yahoo News reported.

The arrests came following a six-month probe into the police department after allegations surfaced that the community didn’t trust its officers.

Authorities say they now have enough evidence now to arrest up to six people linked to the department for a variety of crimes including bribery, embezzlement, making criminal threats and illegal storage of a firearm.

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"Ordinary citizens, again and again, told us they didn't trust the police," acting chief assistant Monterey County District Attorney Terry Spitz told Yahoo News. "There are more investigations underway."

Prosecutors said an undetermined number or vehicles were sold or given away for free when the owners, believed to be Latino residents, couldn’t pay fees to reclaim them.

In response, City Manager Michael Powers said he hopes to announce a new, interim police chief but fixing the city’s sense of distrust of authorities would be a greater challenge.

"Obviously no one should be targeted because of race, but recent immigrants are at something of a disadvantage," Powers said. "They already fear the police. It makes them easy prey."

Complaints of police abuse and corruption in the town have been plentiful for a number of years. State Sen. Bill Monning, whose district includes King City, said he was "incensed and outraged," by the latest arrests, declaring it was not an isolated incident.

"There continues to be situations throughout the state where the immigrant workforce is subjugated to tyranny of those abusing their authority."

Latinos account for almost 90 percent of the community, most who work in vegetable fields along the Salinas River, southeast of San Francisco.  

Following the arrests, many residents have now raised concerns about the depleted police force, with authorities saying a community meeting would be held in the next two weeks to ease concerns.

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Jodie Gummow is a senior fellow and staff writer at AlterNet.