Dear Abby and the disabled parking police

The in basket: Since the daily crossword puzzles in The Kitsap Sun and Dear Abby were put on the same page,  I always read Dear Abby, though it seems to be as much a huckster for books as an advice column these days.

One day recently, she fielded a letter from a woman who got yelled at by someone who thought she was using a handicapped parking space without being disabled.

Abby replied that confronting someone you suspect of gaming the disabled parking rules can lead to the kind of false accusation of which the letter writer said she had been a victim.

Abby then recommended a person, “write down the license number of the car and inform the Department of Motor Vehicles. If you are right, the authorities will be interested in that information.”

That’s a bit short of saying the authorities will do anything about it, which is a good thing. I asked the state Department of Licensing, our equivalent of the DMV, to see what they would do with such a notification.

The out basket: “I’m afraid that isn’t the best advice,” Brad Benfield of the DOL replied. “My agency issues the placards and plates used for access to parking spaces for individuals with disabilities, but we don’t have any way to investigate alleged misuse or any enforcement power. We would not have a way to follow up on disabled parking space misuse.

“Those duties rest with the law enforcement agencies across our state. They have the power to issue tickets to individuals found to have parked illegally in these types of reserved parking spaces. If an individual would like to make a report about this type of activity, reporting it to their local law enforcement agency would be most appropriate.”

Our local police agencies all have different standards for enforcing disabled parking laws. Some will only cite for being in a disabled space without the requisite plate or placard.

When I asked the federal Department of Justice a while back if the disabled person who got the plate or placard can stay in the car in a handicapped space while someone else goes into the store or whatever, I was told that’s up to the local authorities.

So I asked Kitsap Sheriff’s Deputy Schon Montague, who directs the Citizens on Patrol (COP) volunteers who check disabled spaces for violators what he would do with such a complaint.

“People should call 911 when they suspect a law violation, including parking violations,” he said. “In Kitsap County there is no non-emergency phone number. The only way to get a hold of a deputy, COP, city police officer, or humane society officer is to call 911.  If a COP is working, they will respond. If not a deputy will respond.”

That depends on availability, proximity and no other major cop events at that moment, of course.

Truthfully, even if Abby had been right, I don’t think having the police contact you when you’re innocent is a big improvement over being accused by a stranger in a parking lot. Maybe Abbye’s written a book about it….

6 thoughts on “Dear Abby and the disabled parking police

  1. Disabled parking is just one of those scams that is so hard to prove. And I say it is a scam because it is so hard to prove and people are able to get away with it and plus it really is not that hard to get a temporary placard. All someone has to do is fake it to a doctor or just have a Dr.friend who will issue them. I know its fraud but I have known people who have bought one before. I am a 40 yr old disabled VET, there are days when I can barely walk and on my way to getting one if not both knees replaced and I have been offered a placard by a doc. I always say no, because I know there are people out there who are worse off than me. My Dad is a 100% disabled VET who has had a hip replacement and both ankles operated on and while he has plates he is the same way when it comes to parking. If he can make the walk he will not park in a spot cause he says there is someone who is worse than him. It really is not that hard to pick the fakers out of a lineup. Just sit back and watch. If someone has permanent plates then they are really legit. But the temporaries are almost all phonies. I have seen people parked in a park somewhere get out of their car, do some stretching and then just take off running for exercise. It is really unfortunate but I have seen active duty military in uniform or by the base gym it PT gear just hang up a placard cause they could not find a close enough parking spot. That is abuse. Now there are families that have a disabled person in the mix, but hey if that person is not riding in the vehicle that really does not mean the vehicle should park in a handicapped spot. If they are present then by all means, but to those who are not…You suck. Because while they are slick and thinking they are scamming the system, here come some old couple who have to park and walk the parking lot with their walkers and O2 bottles cause some yahoo does not want to walk that far.
    I have seen the COPs out doing enforcement and I think they do an outstanding job. I just wished there was more out there and I would really like to see local PDs out doing more than they do, but they have more important stuff to do like busting cell phone drivers. I mean if a person gets a ticket for handicapped violation they will either pay it or contest it. If they contest it then all they have to do is go to court with someone who has a placard and tell the judge that they just forgot to hang it, knowing full well they probably weren’t in the vehicle to begin with. And that is the scam.

  2. A few years ago a well dressed, well groomed, healthy appearing woman sitting on a box on one of Costco shopping flat carts – behind me in line at the pharmacy counter.
    We began talking and she told me she had been attacked verbally for parking in one of the physically challenged spots when she got out of her car and began walking to the store.
    It turned out her medical condition doesn’t show – yet….she was shaking from the ugly encounter…
    I think of her every time I see what appears to be a healthy person in a handicapped designated spot – do not prejudge people! Sick lungs do not show, for one example!

  3. Sharon you are so right when it comes to hidden disabilities. But there are probably more healthy people out there abusing the placard than those with an actual disability.

  4. This is certainly a hot button topic, as I’m sure you will figure out from responses. But I do not believe that either reporting parking violators to authorities nor calling 911 are appropriate. If the authorities would prosecute violators based upon reports from the public, there would be no end of bogus nuisance calls. And I would hate to think that a law enforcement officer was kept from responding to a real emergency — traffic accident, assault, medical, or whatever — because he/she was dispatched to issue a parking ticket. The present system — COP’s, VIP’s, whatever the local police department calls their geezer patrol — works just fine, thank you. If there is a persistent problem in a particular parking lot, ask the geezer patrol to visit it more often.

  5. My mother-in-law really needed those handicapped spots before she died and so I find it quite upsetting to see people who aren’t disabled using them. I’ve tried several tactics over the years and the one that seems to work best is this. If they have a placard, leave them alone no matter how fit they seem. If they don’t, just tell them they forgot to put up their placard. If they respond that they don’t have one but will “only be a minute”, I tell them if they don’t move, I’ll call the police. And then I call 911. The police always thank me and they have no problem with 911 calls for disabled parking violations.

  6. im dissble and i use my card when im in blazzer and i stay most of the time the blazzer and my bestfriend would go in for me.there should nothing with that.if there a problem with that you can be help me out and be my eyes.and yes i have forgotten to put it up a few should go in the store and page asking if the person in what color or licence plate instead of call 911 for it. it only take a min to do that.i hate it to when some one has a timerry card i have a premettin card thank you

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