A photo of a San Francisco parking control officer on the hood of a moving car that went viral last month seems to have captured the mood of The City's parking enforcement officers.
Things are so bad, the workers and their union picketed outside of the Hall of Justice on Thursday afternoon — along with nurses who work for the city — to pressure city leaders to do something. Dealing with assaults and attacks on these city workers are increasingly becoming a part of their jobs, nurses and officers say, and they want The City protect them.
Even though there is no indication that such violence has increased dramatically recently — there were only 12 reported incidents of parking control officers facing assault or battery this year, according to the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency — workers feel too little is being done.
Maybe some of the incidents this year have just pushed the parking control officers over the edge. They have been threatened, spat on, shoved and, in the worst case, beaten. But they have also been in vehicles whose windows have been bashed, and had tickets thrown back in their face.
“A lot of displaced anger gets put off on these folks,” said Service Employees International Union Local 1021 Vice President Larry Bradshaw, adding that The City has to do more to protect them. “If it doesn't, we're gonna be having to light a fire under them.”
The picketing parking control officers outside of the Hall of Justice Thursday were also asking that District Attorney George Gascón more forcefully prosecute people who attack city employees.
Two weeks ago at a union meeting of about 200 parking control officers — the union represents about 270 parking enforcement officers and 1,000 nurses — concern about safety was paramount, Bradshaw said.
That prompted the union to send a letter outlining its members' concerns to city leaders, including the mayor. But the letter didn't seem to have the desired reaction, so the union decided to picket outside of the Hall of Justice.
Among the picketers was parking control officer Arabi Najdawi, 53, who had hot coffee thrown in his face before he was beaten unconscious in September by someone he had ticketed in the Marina.
“We have to be protected,” he told reporters Thursday as he held a sign with a picture of his battered face after the beating.
Tonya Castillo, another picketer, said a driver intentionally drove into her recently after she was doing parking enforcement near AT&T Park.
Such horror stories, several city departments say, are being taken into account.
“Everyone should be able to work in a violence-free environment,” said Alex Bastian, a spokesman for the District Attorney's Office who added that they prosecute all cases that come before them when there is sufficient evidence.
The two cases showcased as examples of the violence aimed at parking control officers have both been prosecuted, he said.
<p>Christopher Hagerty, who allegedly attacked Najdawi on Sept. 3, has been charged with a count of assault and two counts of battery, and remains in jail with a $325,000 bond.
Bo Mounsombath, the woman who allegedly drove through the streets of San Francisco with a parking control officer on the hood of her car, has been charged with assault and battery and hit and run. She was released on an $82,000 bond.
“We take these cases seriously,” said Bastian, adding that the District Attorney's Office plans to meet with the union.
“The safety and well-being of city staff is paramount and we take this responsibility seriously,” said Mayor Ed Lee's spokeswoman Christine Falvey, who noted that the office received the letter. “The City's Department of Human Resources and the SFMTA will be reaching out to the union to discuss these concerns.”
As for their direct employer, The SFMTA, spokesman Paul Rose said, plans also to meet with the union to address its concerns.
“We understand that our parking control officers have very difficult jobs and we are doing everything we can to provide them everything they need,” he said.