Pay to park or pay the fine.
Parking officers don’t play around in the District.
“I’ve got a ticket and I’m only three minutes over the time limit.”
But after getting a tip from a viewer, the News4 I-Team started its own parking patrol. Wait until you see which District employees are illegally parking all day -- and getting away with it.
It’s 7 a.m. and spots are filling up fast around the D.C. government’s Reeves Center on 14th Street NW.
While some drivers drop in coins, it's hard not to notice car after car after car sitting at unpaid meters.
Hanging on the mirror? Handicapped placards.
According to DC law, placards only allow you free parking for twice the posted time on the meter.
We watch a man in a D.C. government uniform, day after day, park his Dodge Charger on V Street NW at a two-hour meter. He climbs into a D.C. Department of Transportation van that drives across town where it drops him off at his job directing traffic.
Three hours after his time expires, his car still sits near the Reeves Center, no money in the meter and no ticket on the window.
Tisha Thompson: “For the last few weeks we've been watching you park this car with a handicapped placard."
DDOT Employee: "Get that camera out of my face, sir."
Tisha Thompson: "Sorry? Say again."
DDOT Employee "I'm asking your friend to get the camera out of my face."
Tisha Thompson: “You don't want to give us a comment?"
We see another DDOT employee parking each morning at a meter, but not paying up before heading to work. One day she’s directing traffic, another day she patrols K Street for parking violations.
That's right, she writes parking tickets.
"They should have to pay like everybody else should have to pay."
But parking isn't the only thing we notice.
We follow one of the DDOT vans as it drives around for two hours, making stops at a Staples, a CVS and a restaurant before dropping off any officers.
We also catch some of the vans running red lights.
DDOT’s John Lisle says all of its employees are expected to follow the law like everyone else. “Anybody that runs a red light or breaks a traffic law, that's not tolerated." He says, “That concern has already been raised with supervisors to make sure that they tell their staff that's not acceptable."
As for parking, Lisle says District employees don't get a free pass and using a handicap placard does not allow for unlimited use. He says the District’s new red top meter program, which is scheduled to launch next year, will allow only those with handicapped placards to park at about 1,500 meters around the city.
But they will still have to pay.
"That's an issue we've been trying to address,” Lisle says. “It's why we created the red top meter program so that everybody will have to pay for parking because we really think that's going to cut down on the fraud."