I see the question and it’s often asked to me directly, should I report disability parking offenders to police?
It’s a complex issue even though on the surface, it seems simple enough. The most difficult thing I have to manage when dealing with disability parking issues as an advocate is the emotion. It’s an emotionally charged topic because it affects the lives of people with disabilities in a way that others just cannot understand. Discovering the disability parking space is being blocked by an object or used by a vehicle without a permit is the equivalent of being invited to a party when you are mobility impaired and arriving to discover the only access is via a flight of 22 stairs.
It’s about exclusion and isolation. Without accessible spaces in the community that’s what people with disabilities face. Exclusion and isolation. Removing the emotion is always incredibly difficult but to manage the issue of disability parking effectively it’s necessary. So for a moment, lets put the emotion aside.
We’ve shown repeatedly how prolific the offence is however it’s still only minor in comparison to the numbers of other parking offences commited. There is one very important difference….
Disability parking is the only parking offence that is a direct breach of the disability discrimination legislation.
When we travel to a place by car, disability parking is the first point of access. Without it, a premises is deemed not accessible.
So even if other parking offences occur more frequently, they don’t necessarily have an impact on access to premises for a person with a disability parking permit. This puts a different perspective on reporting the offence.
Before we go reporting every vehicle we see in a disability parking space however there are a few things to consider first.
Where the parking space is will affect who the relevant authority is to contact. Councils can issue Parking Infringement Notices (PINs) on street parking and on council property. They may also enter into an agreement with private owners of carparks that are accessible to the public such as shopping centres to monitor and issue PINs in those car parks. So for shopping centres the first point of contact is usually centre management or security and they will contact the relevant authority.
Police are authorised to issue PINs just about everywhere that the general public can access. The police also have a very broad spectrum of issues they have to cover and so we need to keep perspective about how we use their resources. In Queensland I have worked with the police service for a number of years developing training programs, creating methods of targeting offenders and areas offenders frequent and this has been effective so far.
The key to reduction of offences has primarily been education. The most effective method has been our educational flyers that can be left on vehicles when they’re spotted parking in a disability parking space without a valid permit on display. It’s non confrontational and lets the driver know they’ve been seen.
I’m not a fan of sending a report to police of every offender spotted. They’d be forever tied up in paperwork and sending a fine in the mail doesn’t necessarily get the message across. However there are situations when I recommend making a report. Here is the when and how of it all;
When should you report disability parking offences to police?
- The driver is a repeat offender who has ignored requests (including leaving flyers on the windscreen) to stop
- You have approached the driver and asked them politely to move their vehicle explaining the space is reserved for permit holders who cannot use it while it’s being blocked and they’ve refused or they become abusive (if there is any reason to fear your safety in this situation call police on 000 immediately)
- There is a police officer in the vicinity who has the capacity to do some checks
- The vehicle is parked using more than one disability space (this occurs and is exceptionally arrogant and intolerable)
What to do when making a report.
- As said previously, if there is any reason to fear your safety contact police immediately. Leave the situation if you can and it is safe to do so. Do not call 000 for any other reason other than an emergency.
- If you can record the person being abusive on a video device without causing yourself any further aggression, do so. There has been many occasions where police have issued a PIN to a driver for illegally parking but also a fine for being a public nuicance or inappropriate behaviour.
- If taking photos for evidence, provide police with as much detail as possible. The location showing the disability parking signage with the vehicle parking in it. A clear photo of the registration plate of the vehicle. A photo of the dash. This is the most important photo. It must be of the dash up close no 5 metres in front of the vehicle. The permit could be laying down on the dash and not visible from a distance. Check the windscreen for any signs of suction cup marks. This is usually a sign that the person usually displays a permit and they may have a geninune reason for it not being there, may have genuinely forgotten to put it up or it’s fallen off, which has been known to happen due to the inadequate suction cups provided with the permits when they’re issued.
- Minimise the time used up in administration by front line officers by making the reports using an online form if possible or using a service such as PoliceLink in Qld. If you do go into a police station to make your report have all the details ready including print outs of the photos. Please don’t walk into a police station with your phone expecting them to download the pictures from your phone.
- If you saw the driver, provide a description of them
- If you are reporting a person using an invalid permit, get a photo of that permit also.
The most important thing to remember when you make these reports is that should the offender choose the option to be heard in court, you will need to be prepared to attend as the witness. While it is rare, it does happen occasionally. Sometimes people just want their day in court, but as you are the witness and not the officer issuing the infringment, you will need to attend.
The focus of the offence always needs to be that it is more than just a parking offence. It’s discrimination.