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On Sept. 19, Cleveland Park resident Amy Longsworth called the city to report an enormous gray pickup truck with Maryland tags that had parked within inches of her driveway, blocking her view of oncoming traffic when she backed out. The offending truck was gone by the time a parking officer arrived 45 minutes later, but to Longsworth’s surprise, the officer placed a ticket on her husband’s car, a silver Buick with D.C. tags.
Longsworth says she tried to explain that this wasn’t the vehicle she had called about, but the officer replied that she had a headache and was just following orders. When Longsworth pointed out that neither reason was grounds for ticketing her husband’s car, the officer suddenly said that the car was parked less than 5 feet from (Longsworth’s own) driveway, and was thus in violation. Longsworth got a tape measure to prove that the car was actually more than 6 feet from the driveway, and the officer agreed, but she refused to take back the ticket. A call to the officer’s supervisor, Erica Woodhouse, was no help. The officer, in front of Longsworth, told Woodhouse that the car was parked less than 5 feet from the driveway. When Longsworth protested, the officer repeated that she had a headache and drove away. The ticket, which included a request for towing, remained under the wiper. Longsworth called Woodhouse back and was told that the officer’s job was not to look at tape measures but to enforce violations.
“I was stunned and amazed,” says Longsworth. “It was frustrating because there was no appealing to reason in the situation. And when [the officer], right in front of me, had no problem getting on the phone with her supervisor and lying—talk about the Twilight Zone.” (Full disclosure: Longsworth writes occasionally for the Washington City Paper.)
Once Longsworth’s blood pressure dropped out of the red zone, she sent an e-mail to the Cleveland Park Internet discussion group. Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner Nancy MacWood forwarded the information to the city’s director of parking enforcement, Teri Adams, who replied in an e-mail that her agency had “investigated, counselled and disciplined both the Supervisor as well as Parking officer involved in this incident.” Bill Howland, the director of the Department of Public Works (DPW), also called Longsworth to apologize, and the ticket was dismissed. “This isn’t something that we condone,” says DPW spokesperson Mary Myers. “It’s unacceptable behavior.”