May 21, 1995 in City

Angry Spitter The Last Straw For Meter Cop

By The Spokesman-Review
 
Tags:column

What would you do if some punk spit on you?

Throw a punch? Go for a throat?

Dan Brown, who writes parking tickets for the city of Spokane, didn’t have much time to think.

He says he only wanted to hold the running teenager for the police when the two took a tumble the other day on a city sidewalk.

The kid broke his collarbone during the fall.

City officials worry they may be sued and Brown - the guy who got spit on - is the one in some hot water.

“We hold our officers to a higher standard than a regular citizen,” explains Bruce Steele, Spokane’s transportation director.

Steele declined to say what punishment Brown received, adding: “We will not permit our officers to chase after somebody.”

When it comes to thankless jobs, being a meter cop must be near the bottom of the dung heap.

Over the years, Brown, 47, has choked down loads of abuse from a hostile public, yet he’s always kept his cool.

He’s had his pen yanked out of his hand. Angry fists waved under his nose. He’s been flipped off, put down, threatened and called every swear word on the planet.

Being spit on doesn’t happen very often. It takes an especially low form of life to do that.

“Other than some other body fluids,” Brown says, “being spit on is about the worst.”

He remembers walking back to City Hall once after an encounter with a hothead. When Brown took off his jacket he discovered the slimy trail of spittle the coward spewed when he turned his back.

He once ticketed a taxi cab for parking the wrong way. The elderly passenger became so agitated she hobbled out of the car and tried to spray Brown.

“All she could do was dribble down her chin,” he says, laughing.

Brown has a reputation as an eventempered, likable guy - someone Steele describes as “one of the finest officers” on the city meter patrol.

When people get in Brown’s face, “I pretty much shake it off,” he agrees.

I can tell you from recent personal experience that seeing a $10 citation stuck to your windshield is one of life’s true minor aggravations.

“Hey, that’s MY car!” I yell at Brown as he prepares to nail another parking violator on Monroe.

Brown let me follow him while he prowled the streets on foot Friday afternoon. I got so caught up taking notes and watching Brown that I only realized at the last second that the red Buick he was citing was mine.

It’s an old story this man has heard a zillion times. I parked my car. I forgot about the time. I wasn’t….

“Naw, I deserve it,” I tell Brown when he offers to void the ticket. “Besides, this will give something for you to tell the meter patrol.”

Spokane’s dozen meter cops crank out about 80,000 tickets a year. That number could increase. The City Council is considering bringing back 300 meters that were taken out three years ago.

Furious people will always be a part of Brown’s day, yet the man swears he loves his job.

“We do have a lot of friends on the street,” he says. “Some of them are the people we’ve given tickets to. Not everybody holds grudges.”

So what happened the other day with the spitter?

Brown says he was ticketing a motor scooter on Cedar, when the driver showed up. A teenager arrived not long afterward and the two, according to Brown, got in his face.

As he turned away, someone spit on his arm. He didn’t see which one, but the teenager bolted. Brown lunged after him. The two fell.

Steele is reluctant to release names or many details. He says the two dispute some of Brown’s story, but I find it hard to imagine someone with Brown’s record going after a kid without real provocation.

The transportation director admits he couldn’t do Brown’s job without wringing some jerk’s neck.

But “we don’t want that to happen no matter how tough it is out there.”


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