Issuing ticket gets city agent cuffed

Parking: Police come close to hauling away enforcer after dispute over consultant's permit.

July 19, 2005|By Gus G. Sentementes | Gus G. Sentementes,SUN STAFF

Donna L. Evans says she was just doing her job as a parking control agent when she wrote a citation for a car she thought was illegally parked. Then the unthinkable happened: She got handcuffed by police.

Evans said she wrote a $42 ticket for a car parked during street-cleaning hours in the 1300 block of W. Pratt St. She said the car's driver complained to her, then to a nearby police officer, claiming that an official city parking permit displayed in the back window allowed him to park without fear of being ticketed.

Then, Evans said, the officer called for backup.

According to Evans, a police sergeant came and ordered her to void the ticket. When Evans refused, the sergeant ordered another officer to handcuff her and called for a police transport van to take the uniformed agent to the Central Booking and Intake Center, she said. Police supervisors intervened before she was taken away, and she was freed 10 minutes later, she said.

"It was definitely very emotional," said Evans, whose supervisors rushed to the scene and demanded answers, to no avail.

"They didn't understand how I was being locked up for issuing [someone] a citation," said Evans, who has retained an attorney, Warren A. Brown.

"We're searching out our options," Brown said yesterday. "She doesn't want to lose her job, but at the same token, she feels what was done to her was wrong."

Evans, a three-year employee, said the officers never explained to her or her supervisors why she was cuffed or what charges she faced.

The agent gave her account of the incident, which occurred Thursday, during an interview with a Sun reporter Sunday. Yesterday, Evans, a 35-year-old mother of three and a Waverly resident, said she was ordered by her boss not to speak further about the incident.

Evans said the person she ticketed, George C. Grimes Jr. of Glen Burnie, appeared to know one of the officers and the sergeant because they called him by his first name.

Grimes is a consultant for the city and says he had a work zone permit. He declined to discuss Thursday's incident.

Evans said she had to issue the ticket to Grimes because only official vehicles, such as police cars, are excluded from being ticketed on a street designated for cleaning.

Matt Jablow, a police spokesman, said yesterday the department could not comment on the incident because it was under investigation by its internal affairs division. He identified the officers involved as Sgt. Chris M. Kirhagis, 53, Agent Raymond Woodward III, 36, and Officer Dustin Schappell, 31.

Reached yesterday, Kirhagis declined to comment. The other two officers could not be reached for comment. The three remain on active duty.

The police union president, Lt. Frederick V. Roussey, said he did not have details on the incident but added that his organization would support the three officers "100 percent." He said there have been regular clashes between police officers and parking control agents in the past, particularly over the ticketing of both marked and unmarked police cars.

"It's an unfortunate situation," Roussey said. "But there's always been strained relations between the police and parking people."

David Brown, a spokesman for the city Department of Transportation, whose Safety Division employs 58 parking control agents, declined to comment on whether Evans issued the ticket appropriately. Evans was not charged with any crime.

"The incident is still under investigation," Brown said. "We're taking a look at our policies and procedures to determine if any should be changed."

Evans said that she and other parking control agents have had tense encounters with citizens in the past over parking tickets. On one occasion, an irate motorist ran over her foot. On other occasions, she has been yelled at and spat upon by angry motorists.

"It's just ridiculous," Evans said. "They curse us out all day long. It's a lot to go through. It's stressful."

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