By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
Are parking-enforcement officers part of the solution to the reinventing-public-safety problem?
Nanette Toyoshima hopes so. “We’re public servants – let us serve.”
She is president of the Seattle Parking Enforcement Officers’ Guild, representing almost 100 people who work as Seattle Police parking-enforcement officers (PEOs)- a job she has done for 14 years.
As part of Seattle public-safety reform, there’s a proposal to move PEOs out of SPD and into SDOT.
Toyoshima’s group – with the support of West Seattle/South Park councilmember, and Public Safety Committee chair, Lisa Herbold – proposes instead moving them to the new department that will also include the 911 center after it moves out of SPD.
And they want to take on additional duties. Herbold mentioned this to us in our recent conversation about SPD attrition. She told us, “I’m also working with the parking enforcement officers union through the budget process so that they can do some of the work police officers currently do, like verify automated-enforcement tickets, respond to non-injury collisions, respond to and report on minor thefts and car break-ins, and act as flaggers at construction sites and events (SPD officers currently do this at great overtime expense). Again, the goal is for sworn officers to do less of what we don’t need them to do so we can ensure that the force has the person-power to do the work that they must do.”
This proposal was officially discussed when councilmembers discussed SDOT and SPD on Tuesday during the “issue identification” round of budget review. This isn’t the formal voting phase, so there are a few steps to go before it would become. part of the budget plan, plus any changes to sworn officers’ duties would have to go through a bargaining process with the Seattle Police Officers’ Guild.
Toyoshima hopes it can happen – she thinks it would be good for the community. She told us in our phone conversation, “Given everything that’s happened, and that the face of policing will be changing .. we suggested that because of our qualifications we’d like to take on additional duties.” She adds, “This is a nationwide movement,” mentioning other cities making changes: “Boston, New Orleans, Indianapolis … San Francisco and Los Angeles are also looking at a larger role for civilians in policing. … This would free sworn officers to deal with violent crimes.”
About the “qualifications” she mentioned, Toyoshima elaborates: “We use police radio, know the area very well, and we’re a very diverse group – a large percentage of BIPOC officers, multilingual, fluent speakers in (many) languages … We already respond to complaints (sent by) the city’s customer-response system (and have a lot of) de-escalation training.”
PEOs already do more than write tickets, Toyoshima notes. Some of it is unofficial: “Find lost dogs, find lost children,” organize holiday giving for children in the community. And some is official – they spot and report problems, from graffiti vandalism to abandoned furniture.
She says the idea of expanded duties has been discussed with SPEOG’s membership and they’re in favor of it. “We have so much to offer – we want to be part of the solution, we want our community to heal, so we offered a solution that would be beneficial and cost-effective. We’re public servants – let us serve.”
WHAT’S NEXT: The City Council will continue honing the budget plan into November. If you have comments on this or other proposals, email@example.com.