This isn’t the most serious outcome from Seattle’s ill-advised flirtation with defund the police activism but it may be the most embarrassing. The city recently realized it will need to refund 7 months worth of parking tickets because the civilians who’d issued them were never granted proper authority to do so.

For seven months, the city’s parking enforcement officers were writing tickets even though they were not authorized to do so.

As a result, about 200,000 parking tickets issued by the officers will now either be voided or refunded to those who have paid them after the city missed a crucial step with how parking enforcement officers issue tickets…

Last August, the Seattle City Council unanimously voted to move parking enforcement officers from the Seattle Police Department to the Seattle Department of Transportation following calls to reimagine policing in the city.

But now the city says those officers didn’t have the proper authority to issue tickets.

About 100,000 of those tickets had already been paid so all of that money, estimated at $4.5 to $5 million, will need to be refunded. And that may not be all because the same parking enforcement officers also ordered a lot of cars to be towed.

It turns out that during the seven-month period when the meter readers lacked the right commission to do their jobs, they also authorized more than 10,000 tows of cars and trucks from city streets.

“We’re still crunching our data, but so far we count 10,256 impounds authorized by the Seattle PEOs [parking enforcement officers],” said Chuck Labertew, president of Lincoln Towing, which has the sole contract for city-initiated towing.

Most of these impounds were “peak-hour tows,” in which parking officers OK an impound and tow trucks swoop in to clear the road lanes of parked cars at rush hour. If the tickets aren’t legit, then there’s little doubt some people will also now contest the tows, Labertew says.

If 10,000 people demand reimbursement for towing which cost $200 a pop, that works out to another $2 million bucks. It’s not clear who within the city is responsible for the mistake but it is clear why all of this happened. Back during the summer of 2020 was defund the police was the new hot idea circulating in Seattle the city council wanted to cut the police force by 50%. In response, Mayor Jenny Durkan proposed moving some departments out from under the police budget which really changed nothing but made it look like the police budget was shrinking.

Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan said Monday she wants to remove $76 million from the Police Department’s budget in 2021, mostly by transferring the city’s 911 call and dispatch center, parking enforcement officers, Office of Police Accountability and Office of Emergency Management outside the department.

Those actions would move $56 million out of the Police Department’s budget, though they likely would not result in savings that could be redirected to other needs, Durkan said. An additional $20 million could be cut in 2021 — by canceling plans to expand Seattle’s police force next year; turning some sworn positions into civilian positions; leaving certain civilian positions vacant; and reducing overtime pay associated with special events, she said.

The mayor and police Chief Carmen Best, meanwhile, slammed deeper cuts that most City Council members have vowed to pursue as irresponsible, warning large-scale layoffs could severely hamstring the Police Department.

In retrospect, the whole thing seems pointless except as a way to argue the mayor was willing to make some changes to the police budget at a time when that’s what everyone was demanding. But between this mess and the decimation of the city’s police force that stemmed from the same activist push, the city would have been much better off studying the problem carefully before slashing the budget.

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