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Oops! Seattle to refund up to $5M in parking ticket over police misstep

Parking enforcement officers did not have special police commissions at the time of issuance if tickets in question.

Published: June 2, 2022 7:37pm

Updated: June 2, 2022 11:57pm

(The Center Square) -

A misstep by the City of Seattle is resulting in approximately 200,000 parking tickets being voided or refunded.

The city is dismissing all parking tickets issued between Sept. 1, 2021 through April 5, 2022 because the parking enforcement officers did not have special police commissions at the time of issuance, according to the City of Seattle.

The special commissions were not issued until April 5 when Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell’s office learned that there was a problem. Harrell’s office then issued a directive to SPD and SDOT to complete the commissions.

Seattle transitioned parking enforcement officers from the Seattle Police Department to the Seattle Department of Transportation after the City Council voted unanimously to do so in August, 2021.

“Council intended special commissions to be issued for city employees who were not within SPD to enforce certain aspects of the traffic code,” the city said in a statement. “Special commissions are issued by the chief of police to personnel who perform law enforcement responsibilities outside of SPD. This technical step was not taken immediately upon [parking enforcement officers’] relocation to SDOT in 2021.”

Voiding and refunding the approximately 200,000 parking tickets will cost the city. Jaimie Housen, a spokesperson for Mayor Harrell, said in an email to the Center Square that “it will cost approximately $4.5 to 5 million to refund paid tickets.”

Some Seattleites are pleased to get their tickets voided and refunded, but frustrated the city focuses on parking violations more than other issues.

“Parking in this city is a joke,” Seattle Resident Will Steele said to The Center Square via phone. “Citizens shouldn’t have to worry about getting a ticket. There are more significant issues than parking infringements.”

Seattle historically gives out more than 500,000 parking infractions per year. However, the numbers have dropped considerably in the past few years. Parking infractions in Seattle dropped from 600,188 in 2016 to 277,387 in 2020, per Seattle's latest annual financial report of 2020.

The city has also halted some aspects of parking enforcement in 2020 “due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” per the city.

The City of Seattle said that refunds should be issued the week of June 6. Seattle is using a third-party administrator to aid in issuing refunds to parking violators. This results in affected individuals not having to take any action to receive their refunds.

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