REINVENTING PUBLIC SAFETY: Parking-enforcement officers propose taking on more non-emergency duties

(Reader photo, last March)

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,

12 Replies to "REINVENTING PUBLIC SAFETY: Parking-enforcement officers propose taking on more non-emergency duties"

  • Flivver October 21, 2020 (1:27 pm)

    If they get out and actually do all these things i think it’s a great idea and a good use of their time and our tax money.

  • John W October 21, 2020 (2:20 pm)

    I only wish they could offer enforcement of current parking laws.  Their lack of response through the present system and the little proactive ticketing they do outside of limited enforcement areas has led to widespread abuse.  We now witness drivers parking on the wrong side of California Ave.  The practice of parking facing the opposing traffic is illegal but not enforced.  The same goes for parking on or straddling the planting strip.   Blocking alleys by parking within five feet of the ally apron.   Parking well within the No Parking Within 30′  and encroaching into sidewalks and intersections.   Parking in Disabled spots without permit.And of course mind the restricted and limited 2 hour parking  we still have.  Monetizing all street parking would free up the Parking Enforcement Officers, allowing them to widen their  duties as well as insure a few parking vacancies per block.

    • Foop October 22, 2020 (3:41 am)

      Are we really that worried about what direction the car is facing while parked. I’m glad they’re considering doing something more valuable. Yeesh.

  • My two cents ... October 21, 2020 (2:31 pm)

    It will be interesting to see how the financial impacts of these reinvention of public safety play out. Are we going to be seeing additional overhead and salaries due to these efforts?

  • Erithan October 21, 2020 (3:26 pm)

    From what I’ve been told even some violence is “non emergent” right now, I’ve been told till someone is actually injured it’s non emergency. Will they be handling those calls as well? Also curious about how wait times will be affected, this last week I’ve been on hold for over 30 minutes to non emergency, another time it was a busy signal.

  • Flivver October 21, 2020 (5:22 pm)

    One other point to ponder. Would they be available 24/7?? If you come out to go to work at 3am on a Sunday(as i have)and find your car gone would someone respond??

    • WSB October 21, 2020 (7:06 pm)

      They are not proposing handling auto theft, which is a felony (the reason why when police pull over occupied stolen cars, it’s at gunpoint).

  • 1994 October 21, 2020 (10:07 pm)

    Maybe they are also looking for higher pay/pensions with increased duties, tasks, and responsibilities?

    • Anne October 22, 2020 (10:37 am)

      If they take on increased duties , tasks, responsibilities- -absolutely should be reflected in their pay/pensions. Wouldn’t most in their jobs expect the same?

  • Joseph October 21, 2020 (11:37 pm)

    Seattle has had 49 murders this year and we still have 2.3 months to go. That’s almost twice as many as usual for the past two decades. I would much rather city officials simply stop this iNsAniTy of defunding SPD and eliminating sworn officers. The fact is the city has become much more dangerous for residents, tourists, commuting workers, and shoppers in a very short amount of time, and mirroring the loss of officers. Let’s “re-imagine” a Seattle without 49 murders in only 10 months. 

  • NW Citizen October 22, 2020 (6:58 pm)

    Unfortunately SPD has brought some of this backlash on itself through its inability to distinguish between someone committing a crime and others who are simply exercising their Constitutional right to peacefully protest and “to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

  • anonyme October 23, 2020 (3:53 pm)

    John W., I agree with everything you said.  The wrong direction parking is especially troublesome, and I have seen numerous near-collisions as a result of this. There are those who think that nothing is a big deal. They are otherwise known as children.

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