Abused parking officers rally for respect

Dozens of San Francisco parking control officers and their supporters gathered together Thursday outside the district attorney’s office at the Hall of Justice to demand safer working conditions and tougher consequences for those who attack city employees.

Tanya Castillo, a fifth-generation San Francisco resident and San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency parking control officer of 28 years, said:

“You can’t just abuse us, cause you don’t like us.”

Castillo stood outside Gascón’s office today and described a violent encounter she suffered while on the job.

She said she was controlling traffic at Fourth and Howard streets in the South of Market neighborhood on Sunday when a driver refused to move her vehicle and decided to deliberately bump Castillo with her vehicle.

Castillo said she tried to get the woman arrested, but it was her word against the woman’s and there was no action taken beyond a citation.

She said she usually loves her job and ever since she was a little girl, she has wanted to drive a parking control cart, but said the abuse has gone too far:

“We shouldn’t have to be treated this way.”

She said Sunday was not the first time she was physically struck by a vehicle. She recounted an incident in which she was writing down a vehicle identification number to issue a citation when the driver of the vehicle accelerated. She traveled up onto the hood of the vehicle and held on for half a block. The driver then slammed on the brakes and she fell to the ground.

Trevor Adams, a parking control officer and SEIU Local 1021 union steward, said Gascón has failed to address these types of attacks, which he said happen frequently:

“We need him to lead by example and discourage assaults on our co-workers.”

Carlos Rivera, a spokesman for SEIU Local 1021 said there has been a rise in violent attacks against city workers. He pointed to two felony charges filed last month, one in which a parking control officer was hit in the head by a driver and another in which one traveled on the hood of a driver’s car for about a mile.

David Canham, the union’s field representative, sent a letter to Gascon last week urging his office to provide “safe, healthful work environments” for city employees and security to all of its citizens.

He contends that the district attorney’s office has allowed the situation to “spiral out of control” and has “failed to sufficiently prosecute violations.”

Parking control officers said today they want stricter laws to protect themselves against violent members of the public.

Chief Assistant District Attorney Sharon Woo responded to the union’s concerns earlier this week.

Woo said that in both recent cases involving parking control officers, prosecutors charged each defendant with felony offenses.

She assured the union that her office would:

“… continue to treat law enforcement victim cases with the gravity and seriousness warranted.”

Castillo said that while that message is appreciated, the district attorney needs to send a message to the public that assault on parking and traffic enforcement officers is no different from assault on a police officer, or Gascón himself.