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Sun, Sep

Keeping LA Safe Means Full Time Traffic Officers

VOICES - I’m a traffic officer. I’ve been doing this job for the City of Los Angeles for over eleven years. When I started, I saw this job as a way to help people, interact with the public and provide security for my family.


But the Los Angeles Department of Transportation is making it hard for me and my fellow officers to do our jobs. Lately people in the department talk a lot about budget deficits and they seem to care more about revenue than quality and professionalism. The DOT plans to hire 100 part-time traffic officers to write tickets. They think that will raise revenues. But I think it’s a bad idea.

The part-timers’ core duty is to write tickets and nothing more. That will only add to the stereotype of how the public views traffic officers as “glorified ticket writers, meter maids and ticket Nazis.”

But my job is more than just writing tickets. I keep the city of Los Angeles moving. I direct traffic when the streets are congested due to a special event like the Los Angeles Marathon or Carmageddon. I make sure people can get around the city when police activity blocks streets. I direct traffic when the street lights go out. And I make sure people can get out of their driveways when other drivers block the entrances. In fact, I’ve helped people whose driveways were blocked get out so they could get to the hospital.

As you can guess, it’s not an easy job. I’ve been spit on, cussed at and even had angry drivers lunge their cars at me after discovering parking tickets on their windshields. But after more than eleven years on the job, I know how to diffuse these situations by showing people respect.

But respect is not something me and my fellow officers are getting right now from our management.

As a rule, traffic officers are not supposed to bring drama into the office. The office is supposed to be a safe place away from the drama we see out on the streets. But by trying to give our jobs to a bunch of part-timers, DOT management is adding drama to our workplace and hurting morale.

I and my fellow officers understand the DOT wants to increase revenues. So last month, I and my fellow officers presented a proposal for generating more money to our managers, but it was disregarded. Now we’re making another proposal: make the 47 part-timers who have already been hired full-time professional employees of the city. Because in the end, being a traffic officer is about being on the front lines.

I am a first responder. I make sure that the streets are clear so Police and Fire officers can get where they need to go quickly. And when it comes to public safety, the people of Los Angeles shouldn’t have to rely on temporary workers.

(Daren McDaniel is a Traffic Officer with the City of Los Angeles.)
-cw

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CityWatch
Vol 9 Issue 63
Pub: Aug 9, 2011