Officer Gilbert Jara, president of the Bell Police Officers Assn., said officers were called in and told to increase impounds.
"If you weren't doing a specific amount of activity regarding impounds, they would call you in and tell you, 'Why are your stats low? Pick them up.' So you'd go around and do your business and start picking them up.... That was the mentality. A cop would feel like that was his job now."
One police official, who asked that his name not be used, said that in early 2009 he was called to a meeting with a police captain and told he would be held personally responsible if impounds did not go up.
James Corcoran, a former Bell police officer who has filed a wrongful-dismissal suit against the city, complained to city leaders in 2009 that the department was towing cars to generate revenue. The majority of vehicles that were seized were not a danger to the community, he said.
Miranda, the captain, said officers were never pressured to focus only on impounds, but he said the department stressed traffic enforcement as a crime-reducing strategy.
"The thought was that if gang members and drug dealers knew there was a high probability of being stopped in Bell, they'd stay away," he said. "And it would improve traffic safety and pedestrian safety."
"If you're very aggressive on traffic, you'll have high impounds," Miranda said.
The goal set in early 2009 of three moving citations, two impounds and one arrest per day were not a quota but a recommendation, and the department quickly abandoned the strategy, Miranda said.
In the aftermath of the city's upheaval, Miranda said the department is moving away from traffic-oriented policing and is looking into reducing impound fees, he said. He has also recommended that the city stop contracting with a single tow company, a practice he said is unusual.
"At this point," Miranda said, "we're comfortable with what we're doing as far as our traffic accident rates. And we really want to regain the public's trust."