Last month, I got into an argument with an enforcement officer who was issuing my visiting mother-in-law’s car a ticket outside my house for being over the time limit in a one hour parking spot. I was annoyed because my wife had emailed my mother-in-law’s car info to the City the day before for inclusion on the do not ticket list. The officer (who I shall refer to as Officer X for now because I do not want to get him fired) told me he was just doing his job. I pointed out to him that this is a common response from them when issuing an unfair ticket and that he is not doing his job if he fails to realize that the car is on the do not ticket list. I told him about the various other occasions when a visitor was on the do not ticket list and still received a ticket. At that point, he told me that there is an employee back at City offices who is responsible for compiling the do not ticket list from the emails received and that this does not always get updated as quickly as it should. He also told me he does not have immediate access to the most current do not ticket list while on patrol.
Officer X also told me to protest the ticket and it would be forgiven which prompted a lengthy discussion about how and why a protest should not be necessary if the ticket clearly should not have been issued (as was confirmed when he radioed my mother-in-law’s car information to the City office and was advised over his radio that the car was, in fact, on the do not ticket list). He sympathized with my concerns an ultimately asked for me to hand him the tickets and that he would have them taken care of.
As we chatted, I gave him various other examples of improper tickets being issued. I mentioned one recent ticket I was protesting where I was ticketed for parking on the sidewalk when I was fairly certain I was, at worst, touching the curb but not on the sidewalk.He suggested to me that he was aware of that ticket and that the officer who had issued it was fired. According to Officer X, the other officer (he identified her as Edwards) had been patrolling our neighborhood at night in her private vehicle after she was off duty. She would take down vehicle information of cars parked on my street and then issue tickets to those vehicles the following day fraudulently stating on the ticket that a violation had been committed at the time on the ticket. It was not clear from his comments whether Officer Edwards would actually try to go back and put the ticket on the car the next day if the car was still parked there, but Officer X made clear that some unsuspecting owners would receive a notice in the mail several weeks later after not paying the ticket they never actually received on his/her car in the first place. According to Officer X, a vehicle owner who received one of these tickets was able to confirm that his car was not even in Delaware at the time Officer Edwards issued the ticket to his car. According to Officer X, this caused the City to review some of the other tickets Officer Edwards issued and she was ultimately fired because she was engaging in this conduct.
I wonder how many people received a ticket from Officer Edwards under similar circumstances. In my opinion, it calls into question the validity of every single ticket Officer Edwards issued. It also necessitates the following questions: Are their other enforcement officers engaging in this conduct? Has the City encouraged this conduct by setting ticket quotas and by openly permitting questionable enforcement tactics? Has this officer’s conduct been reported by the City to law enforcement for possible criminal charges? Has the City dismissed the tickets issued by Officer Edwards or at least sought to identify the previously issued tickets that may have been fraudulently issued by Officer Edwards?
My protest of the ticket I received from Officer Edwards for supposedly parking on the sidewalk was denied. Upon my repeated requests, Debra Wooden finally sent me the picture last month taken by Officer Edwards at the time the ticket was issued. It shows that my back tire was on the curb in an area where the curb is old, sinking, and only slightly elevated from the road. The condition of the curb is not very evident from the picture, but it does show that no portion of my car was on the side walk. When I had received this ticket, I asked Mr. Rago during a telephone conversation if I could have been issued a ticket for parking on the sidewalk if my car was touching the curb. His response was “no” and that my car would have had to have been clearly on the sidewalk to receive this ticket. I also checked the code provision and it does not appear to include “curb” in the definition of sidewalk. I followed up last month with Ms. Wooden pointing this out and questioning why the ticket has not been dismissed based on the picture showing that I am not on the sidewalk. I have received no response.
Incidentally, I should mention that when Officer X conveyed the above story to me last month, he also told me that, on one occasion, he personally received a notice from the City for failure to pay a ticket from a few years before for allegedly being caught on camera running a red light. According to Officer X, the date of the alleged violation was well prior to the date the City had installed red light cameras. Officer X also stated that the City focuses on Midtown Brandywine because the City generates a lot of revenue off of this neighborhood as compared to other areas of the City.
Officer X told me that he is just trying to avoid getting fired. He said a company from New Jersey took the officers around the City the year before and asked some of them why they didn’t issue tickets in certain situations and then told the officers they weren’t doing their job. If the City is tying job security to the number of tickets each officer writes, can we really expect that these officers will risk job security in the interest of providing fairness to a vehicle owner?
Frankly, I was not shocked by anything Officer X told me, although I was quite surprised that he volunteered shared any of this information. In hindsight, I think he may have been trying to show some sympathy and distance himself from the City’s conduct because I made him aware that I was seriously considering suing the City and naming officers individually who were knowingly writing tickets where the purported violation did not actually exist.
At this point, I am not sure I care enough about his job security to refrain contact various media outlets with the information he provided.
The following are additional recurring issues I have encountered:
- Street cleaners go through Midtown Brandywine at 10:00 a.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays from April 1 to October 31. The cleaning is completed in approximately 10- 20 minutes, yet signs prohibit parking through 12:00 p.m. due to the street cleanings and the City continues to ticket until 12:00 p.m. even when officers have personally witnessed the street cleaners coming through earlier in the morning and completing the job. Midtown Brandywine goes November 1st to March 30th each year (including when leaves are falling) without any street cleanings. Are the residents supposed to believe that scheduled street cleanings within 48 hours of one another from April to October are for any other purpose than to create a ticketing opportunity? If the cleanings are truly necessary, why can’t the City just make it no parking from 10:00-11:00 a.m.? This would provide more than sufficient time.
- Writing a protest letter concerning a ticket, having documented correspondences back and forth with the City about the ticket, and then receiving a form letter that the fine is increased because of the failure to pay or respond to the ticket.
- Substantial delays in the protest/appeals process. I have requested Court dates on each of the denied protests discussed above. To date, I haven’t received one court date.
- Non-uniform enforcement of a 20 foot crosswalk buffer in locations the City has now decided to enforce as a crosswalk. This has resulted in an insufficient number of parking spaces on my street and, at times, requires me to walk a few blocks with my young children late a night rather than taking a spot right outside my front door. It is ironic that they present the 20 feet from crosswalk buffer as being in the interest of safety. This provision likely enhances the likelihood of somebody being mugged due to having to take a longer walk back to their house from a remote parking spot.
- I hear many stories from neighbors of officers failing to notice the residential sticker. Do these officers have poor vision or is this a last resort ticket when they have a quota to meet? I think some of these officers excuse their own culpable conduct by telling themselves that the car owner can appeal the ticket and the ticket will eventually be forgiven. These officers don’t appear to appreciate the aggravation and inconvenience of going through this process on a repeated basis.