After a San Francisco parking control officer was hospitalized Tuesday, the result of an assault, the union that represents those officers is calling for more on-the-job protection.
The female officer had just finished writing a ticket for a vehicle parked at an expired meter at 29th Street and Tiffany Avenue, according to a preliminary police report, when the suspect, who reportedly weighs nearly 300 pounds, returned to the vehicle. According to the report, the suspect shouted obscenities at the officer, then began “pummeling her with her fists about the face and upper body until the officer was completely defenseless and was barely able to access her radio.”
The officer was hospitalized with a concussion and dislocated shoulder, according to police. She managed to call for help after the suspect left, and police officers found and arrested the suspect hours later.
“It [assault] happens more frequently than people know about,” said Lawanna Preston, staff director for Service Employees International Union, which represents the parking control officers. “Not to the extent of this particular case, but they get spit on, bottles thrown at them on a pretty regular basis.”
Preston said that during contract negotiations with The City in May, the officers had asked for training in self-defense and conflict avoidance. The demands were not met, but the union signed the contract anyway. After Tuesday’s assault, however, Preston said she wanted to reopen that discussion.
Parking control officers work for the San Francisco Department of Parking and Traffic, not the Police Department. They issue parking tickets, but cannot make arrests.
“I’m hoping we can sit down as soon as next week to start some discussions about how to better protect these workers,” she said. The officers carry only their radios for protection. When faced with a hostile situation, they are instructed to get out of the area and call for backup. “but when people explode into a violent outburst, it happens pretty suddenly,’ Preston said.
DPT spokesman Alan Seigel said the agency is looking into the incident. “We are not going to make any comment because it is a police matter,” he said.
“We take such reports very seriously and we work closely with the police and DA as far asprosecuting such offenses,” Seigel said.
But Preston called for a change in department policy. “I would like to see more training put in place for employees to be able to more quickly detect when a situation would escalate into a violent situation,” she said. “I think it may be necessary for them to carry batons. These are things the department and the union are going to have to sit down about.”