Public Comment

Trying Parking Infractions in the Press

By Peter Glikshtern
Friday November 24, 2006

Unlike Mr. Rivera, I do not deem myself a student of violence. Rather, I like to think of myself as a student of human nature, of which violence is one facet. I have, however, been in dozens (possibly hundreds) of physical altercations in a professional capacity, as a doorman at some of the biggest and busiest nightclubs in San Francisco. 

In his response to Rob Browning’s letter to your publication, Mr. Rivera contends that he is in a position of weakness when he’s patrolling the mean streets of Berkeley, because like the London bobby he is not armed with a pistol. This necessarily implies that most (or at least some) Berkeley citizens out there are armed. This, of course, is laughable. 

In performing his duties, Mr. Rivera has his radio and Berkeley’s finest at his beck and call. This puts him in a position of supreme advantage over his irate victim, as the best that the recipient of a parking citation is going to do is get on his cell phone and call his cousin in El Cerrito to vent. (And unless this cousin person works for the sheriff’s department, it will take them at least a half hour to get to the scene to provide backup to said parking transgressor, what with traffic and all. BPD will be there in less than two minutes, with sirens flashing and guns at the ready.) Does Mr. Rivera presume to suggest that Berkeley citizens would heap less abuse on their meter maids if the meter maids were armed? This is ridiculous. I know people. I’ve seen things that would make Mr. Rivera’s hair stand on end. I can tell Mr. Rivera—if he cares to listen—that any person who would physically accost a city employee will do so irrespective of whether said city employee is armed. A gun is not a deterrent to violence. Anyone who would raise a hand against a civil servant is either too much of a lunatic to care about a gun or knows full well that no official personage will ever discharge a weapon unless their life is threatened. A punch on the nose from an unarmed individual does not constitute such a threat. End of story. 

Unlike law enforcement officers, parking enforcement personnel do not regularly come into contact with the criminal element, just people who have used poor judgment in parking their cars. Or more frightening, people who are busy and have neglected to put money in their meter. This is why most cities around the country have deemed it unnecessary to arm meter maids. 

The particulars of Mr. Browning’s case will undoubtedly be sorted out in the Berkeley courts. As a public employee who presumably has regular contact with the court system in the course of discharging his duties, Mr. Rivera really should know that he’s behaved in a less than commendable fashion by putting all sorts of hearsay out there in the press. 

But more despicable than Mr. Rivera’s attempt to try this matter in the press is his liken himself to a battered woman. Is it fair to ask when the last time was that Mr. Rivera’s husband beat him up? If Mr. Rivera feels as helpless as all that, perhaps he should take some defensive tactics classes, and start with a therapist. Or maybe find another line of work. 


Peter Glikshtern lived in Berkeley for 14 years.