D.C. Dept. of Public Works drivers violate own traffic rules

WASHINGTON (WJLA) - It’s quitting time on the 300-block of C Street Northwest – but the traffic jam here is from these two DDOT parking enforcement vehicles, which are blocking the bulk of both traffic lanes in order to write tickets.

Cars are able to squeak by in one direction one at a time by weaving between them.

On Connecticut Avenue, it’s just after 4 p.m., which means that this is a no parking zone. For about 20 minutes, we watch these Department of Public Works officers hand out citations to people who parked illegally – exactly like they did.

"I think they should park legally or walk or take the train like the rest of us," says District resident James Jones. "They should follow the laws that they are trying to enforc."

And unlike MPD cruisers, parking enforcement cars are not emergency vehicles.

We asked D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier whether they have special rights on the roads. She replied: "No, they don't have special rights."

In fact, parking officers are supposed to follow the same rules of the road that every other driver does. DPW’s standard operating procedures require employees to "show courtesy to other drivers, obey traffic signs and traffic regulations"

And these are rules that this DPW minivan is not following, as it blocks the crosswalk at 19th and S Streets. The van’s driver stays in the vehicle while a second person writes a ticket. Behind the van, you can see a large construction dumpster leaving barely enough room for a car to pass on what is supposed to be a two-lane road.

"That is not acceptable behavior, this becomes a teaching moment," said Teri Doke, administrator of DPW’s Parking Enforcement Agency. "We are not supposed to inhibit the safe flow of traffic."

We showed her some of what our investigation found, like this picture snapped on 6th Street of a car stopped in front of a fire hydrant – and the driver appears to be texting. And the most egregious example we found was this van – clearly marked “Parking Enforcement” – that is completely blocking a fire hydrant.

When we confronted the driver, he told us to simply have a nice day, and insisted he wouldn't give us a ticket for doing the same thing -- which is inaccurate.

"It's a violation, it's illegal, and appropriate action has been taken," said Teri Doke.

In fact, because of our investigation, DPW confirms that disciplinary action was indeed taken and that some officers were given re-training to reinforce the need to obey the laws that they are enforcing.

"We are operating on this feedback just in time -- we don't expect to have to be at this place again," said Doke.