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Seattle Police Department patch.
Credit: Facebook Photo/Seattle Police Officers Guild

Should parking officers return to the Seattle Police Department?

The Seattle City Council will decide by November whether to return dozens of parking enforcement officers to the Seattle Police Department, reversing its action taken in 2021.

Parking enforcement duties were moved out of SPD last year and placed with the Seattle Department of Transportation. The move was in response to calls to shrink the city's police department. Now, Mayor Bruce Harrell's proposed 2023-24 budget aims to shift all parking officers back to SPD.

Senior Deputy Mayor Monisha Harrell says the change has created problems. She also points to a survey that states nearly 80% of parking enforcement officers want to return to SPD.

“That came from their membership because they had so many members, so many of their staff, who were threatening, quite candidly, to leave," Harrell said.

There are $4.5 million in parking tickets that the city had to refund after the transfer, Harrell notes. When making the move, the officers were not given the legal authority to issue the tickets. They were therefore invalid.

According to Mayor Harrell's budget proposal summary:

"The budget includes a transfer of Parking Enforcement Officers (PEOs) from the Department of Transportation (SDOT) to SPD. This transfer reverses a decision from 2020 to relocate the PEOs out of SPD, after recognizing that operational and administrative efficiencies would be better realized under SPD. This move would allow access to law enforcement databases, would eliminate the basis for PEOs unfair labor practice (ULP) complaints and SPDs disciplinary system (Office of Police Accountability) would provide full access to information needed for misconduct investigations. Additionally, this move will save $5.5 million in functional overhead and overtime expenses and eliminate annual special commission requirements for PEOs and allows PEOs to continue utilizing SPD facilities and resources for regular work assignments."

Council members said the previous mayoral administration failed to give them adequate information at the time the decision to move the officers was made. The proposal to move the officers back will be up for discussion as the council considers the the 2023-24 budget.