Parking officers prepare to deal with rising tide of anger

With assault cases against San Francisco’s parking control officers in double digits, The City is putting its ticket-dispensing employees through a new conflict-resolution program to help them defuse the angry reactions of unruly citizens.

Assault cases against parking control officers, who are overseen by Muni, rose from 17 in 2005 to 28 in 2006. The numbers for 2007 have not yet been totaled, according to Muni officials.

Last month, when the department’s board of directors approved a plan to add $10 to all parking violations less than $90, parking-control officers attended the public meeting to express concern that the higher prices could increase acts of violence against them.

The department’s new training program — established this year before the rate increases were finalized — trains parking-control officers to detect early signs of aggression, avoid conflict and protect themselves in case of assault, according to Antonio Parra, director of enforcement and security for the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency.

Employees are taught the kind of person they can deal with verbally, and signs that a person is too irrational to control and must be contained with police enforcement, Parra said. If assaulted, parking-control officers are trained to use their pepper spray, which can be used only in a defensive manner, he said.

“We stress that our employees should never give up the right to self-defense,” Parra said.

The five-hour session has already trained 58 parking-control officers, all of whom were recently hired by the SFMTA. In June, 50 veteran parking-control officers will undergo the training in a modified version of the program that will incorporate the employees’ previous experience, Parra said. The department has 276 parking-control officers.

Next month, the Board of Supervisors will also vote on the SFMTA’s proposed budget. If approved, the increased ticket prices will go into effect by July.

Lawmakers have also sought ways to protect ticketing officers from the threats of angry citizens. Assemblymember Mark Leno, whose district includes San Francisco, successfully passed a bill that doubles fines — increasing them to $2,000 — for assaults against parking-control officers. The bill took effect in January.

Two cases are currentlybeing pursued under the new law, according to Para.

wreisman@sfexaminer.com

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