Federal court says chalking tires unconstitutional

By J Swygart - jswygart@limanews.com

LIMA — Changes are coming in the parking enforcement division of the Lima Police Department. A pending resignation and a federal court ruling are behind the upcoming revisions.

The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Monday that a long-standing police practice of applying chalk to the tires of parked vehicles is unconstitutional. The three-judge panel agreed with attorneys for a Michigan woman that the city of Saginaw’s practice of physically marking tires with chalk to denote how long a vehicle has been parked in one spot is a violation of the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution that protects against “unreasonable searches and seizures.” And the city’s chalking of cars “to raise revenue” does not qualify as a public safety concern that could allow a search without a warrant, the court ruled.

That decision will have widespread consequences. Lt. Andy Green of the Lima Police Department said chalking tires has been a practice within the department “for many, many years. That’s the way police departments all across the country have done it forever.”

But effective Monday, that all changed. “We have, since the (court) ruling came out, ceased doing that,” Green said Tuesday.

While a new plan for keeping track of violators of downtown parking limits is being crafted, Green said Parking Enforcement Officer Jenilyn Gaines is currently marking the pavement — not the tires — around parked cars “without coming in contact with the vehicle’s tires.”

Green said the department will “work around” the court’s ruling. “We’ll do what we need to do but still stay within the law,” he said.

Green also noted that Gaines — the lone parking officer on the force — has submitted her resignation and will leave the department on Friday in a move unrelated to the court’s decision.

“We’ve got to fill that position now,” Green said.


By J Swygart


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