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….