City of Vernon looks at curbing aggressive bylaw enforcement

Parking enforcement may shift into a softer approach in downtown Vernon.

Parking enforcement may shift into a softer approach in downtown Vernon.

The city is considering a number of approaches after complaints were received about parking bylaws being inflexible and unnecessary tickets being issued.

“Council and administration are committed to addressing the concerns and we will keep at it until we have a model the community wants,” said Mayor Rob Sawatzky.

Among the initiatives being considered is warning tickets being issued for first-time violations where there isn’t a traffic safety issue.

“In addition to warning tickets, prior to ticketing, officers will take reasonable steps to attempt to determine the owner of a vehicle in violation of a traffic device,” states a staff report. “For example, attending the adjacent business to inquire as to the owner of the vehicle.”

Other measures being proposed are educating downtown businesses about bylaws and communicating the public about appropriate vehicle use and parking requirements.

It’s been suggested that bylaw enforcement staff be enrolled in a course related to customer service, client communication and managing conflict.

Hiring practices will also change.

“Due to changing role of bylaw officers, we will be moving to implementing psychometric testing to further ensure applicants have the appropriate personality profile,” states the staff report.

“It has been suggested that the hiring and use of individuals experienced in previous law enforcement roles creates an atmosphere of aggression or overzealousness. Current process for hiring include a series of scenario-based questions in order to weed out applicants who may be too aggressive or authoritarian.”

Coun. Patrick Nicol believes new hiring strategies will emphasize an ambassadorial role for staff.

“It will clearly identify people who are good at this,” he said.

Coun. Brian Quiring, who raised concerns about parking enforcement March 11, welcomes the  changes being taken by administration.

“It’s a step in the right direction,” he said.

“The warning system will mend fences with people who have received tickets.”