Vancouver parking-ticket officers have been punched, spat on, verbally abused, threatened with death and involved in violent brawls with irate citizens in hundreds of confrontations over the past three years, an investigation by the Sunday Province reveals.
Documents released under freedom-of-information legislation include about 300 parking enforcement officer “incident reports” filed from January 2010 to December 2012.
Under headings including “excessive verbal abuse,” “threats” and “assault,” officers report allegations in detailed narratives.
The reports reviewed by the Sunday Province give a rare glimpse into the general hatred and violence that parking enforcement officers face while making their rounds.
In a majority of incidents, verbal aggression including swearing. Racial and sexual slurs are reported, and often death threats are involved.
Officers reported being threatened with baseball bats and tire irons, and having hot coffee, eggs, bags of garbage, lit cigarettes and even an office printer thrown at them.
Some officers described fearing for their lives when they were followed and blocked in by angry motorists.
In more than one case, attackers punched officers’ closed car windows while the officers frantically radioed for police assistance.
Several reports alleged that drivers attempted to hit officers while they were out of their vehicles.
In a surprising number of cases, it’s not ticketed motorists but pedestrians or bystanders who verbally and physically attack unsuspecting parking officers.
In about 10 per cent of cases, various types of assault or attempted assault are reported.
In one especially violent case June 30, 2011, an officer reported that he was talking to several parking-meter technicians on East Broadway when a man walking by said, “Why don’t you get back to work, you f—ing squids.”
“I said, ‘You get back to work, you squid,'” the officer writes.
“We were face to face, words were exchanged. He threw a right punch fist that hit my left eye. I defended myself with punches. I grabbed his hair, and he used his thumb to gouge my left eye. . . . A passing cop stopped and broke us up.”
Within incident reports, officers can recommend flagging “abusive” drivers in a parking enforcement database. An “abusive” driver warning can be accessed by officers when they punch in licence plates on the hand-held devices they carry. There have been 147 drivers flagged “abusive” in the computer system since 2009, according to city records.
In some cases, bylaw officers file Workers Compensation Board injury claims following incidents.
Incident reports don’t indicate whether compensation claims are successful, or whether officers are disciplined for their actions.
Those records could not be released, according to the City of Vancouver. A union representative did not respond to a request for comment on this story.
Many of the parking-ticket incident reports show police responding to protect bylaw officers, and often police files are opened and some citizen arrests were reported.
In a couple of incident reports, it was police officers engaged in conflicts with bylaw officers.
In an October 2011 case, a parking bylaw officer alleges a “criminal assault by threat,” made by an undercover officer near the Vancouver Police Department’s Cambie Street headquarters.
After ticketing an unmarked car parked in a “no stopping” sign area, the bylaw officer alleges a sergeant approached him, flashed his badge, said, “We work for the same boss,” and asked him to cancel the ticket.
“I said I could not take back the ticket,” the bylaw officer claimed. “He said, ‘You have just signed your death certificate.'”
Vancouver police did not respond to a request for more information on the alleged incident.
Although the majority of incident reports indicate harrowing ordeals for enforcement officers, one case stands out for its bizarreness.
An officer reported an office printer had been thrown near her while she issued a ticket – before it was driven over by a passing car.
When the stunned officer looked toward the side of the street from which the printer seemed to have come, she “only observed an elderly lady with a walker.”
PARKING REVENUE GROWS
- Money collected from parking meters and parking tickets is a major and rising source of revenue for the City of Vancouver.
- In 2012, $39.5 million was raised; from street parking meters, with the take projected to increase to $40.7 million in 2013.
- In 2012, 301,478 parking tickets were issued, for a total value of $24.8 million in parking tickets.
- Money collected from fined; motorists started trending above $17 million per year in 2011, apparently due to the city’s new fine adjudication system, while the number of tickets issued has dropped.
- In 2009, 443,199 tickets were issued and about $16 million was collected. In 2010, 418,038 were issued and about $17 million was collected.