Mayor Byron W. Brown says motorists who ignore parking laws on streets around Police Headquarters should be fined, unless they're on official business in clearly designated vehicles.
Brown's comments mirrored a memo issued Friday by newly confirmed Police Commissioner H. McCarthy Gipson instructing departmental employees that they cannot park personal vehicles on Franklin Street. Gipson's directive made it clear that only "official police vehicles" should be parked outside the police facility.
The issue surfaced after a Buffalo News investigation published Sunday indicating that despite a citywide parking enforcement blitz initiated by officers, few tickets have been issued to vehicles parked around Police Headquarters.
"We expect even and uniform enforcement," Brown said Monday. "If people are parked illegally, and they're not in an official business capacity, they should expect to be ticketed."
Buffalo has long had a policy that all city-owned vehicles must display decals. The only exception is cars used by the Police Department for undercover purposes.
But Department of Motor Vehicles records showed that most of the cars parked illegally around the headquarters building were not owned by the city or county. Many of the vehicles were registered to civilians or to police officers, civilian police employees, sheriff's deputies and county employees.
When The News disclosed the enforcement blitz two weeks ago, the head of the police union insisted that it was motivated solely by officers' desire to have a "zero tolerance" for violations.
But a few officers have acknowledged that at least part of the crackdown has been fueled by growing frustration over a wage freeze that has blocked them from raises included in a 2003 agreement. Officials from the control board responsible for the freeze also have heard that the dispute has played a role in the enforcement blitz.
Brown has repeatedly declined to speculate whether the wage freeze has been a factor in the crackdown.
At 5:30 p.m. Friday, an administrative memo was sent out to all police personnel: "No parking of personal vehicles on Franklin Street -- official police vehicles only -- effective immediately as per Police Commissioner H. McCarthy Gipson."
Monday, many cars were seen parked in "No Standing Any Time" zones on Church Street and Franklin but not nearly as many as usual.
Just one vehicle parked on Church at Franklin on the block next to Police Headquarters was observed Monday with an orange parking ticket on its windshield.
One fire hydrant was blocked on Church, but another was left unblocked. Those did not appear to have been ticketed.
In the meantime, Buffalo police cruisers were seen around The News building giving out parking tickets Sunday and Monday. Two vehicles on Scott Street were ticketed Sunday at about noon, and one truck making a delivery to The News on Monday was ticketed at about 11:15 a.m.
Officers have written four times as many tickets this year as they did in a similar period a year ago. Brown said he would hope the motivations are not malicious. He added that he didn't think media vehicles on official assignment to cover news events should be ticketed.
The mayor also said he's waiting for an opinion from his top legal adviser on another parking flap. Most meters in downtown's central business district are supposed to be free on Saturdays. The Common Council has been making the changes on a street-by-street basis for three years.
But public works officials said a manpower shortage has caused lengthy delays in installing at least half of the new street signs indicating the changes.
In the meantime, downtown business leaders said officers have been giving tickets to some vehicles parked on Saturdays at expired meters.
Brown said he expects Corporation Counsel Alisa A. Lukasiewicz to issue an opinion this week on whether vehicles can legally park free on Saturdays at downtown meters even on streets that don't have signs that spell out the policy.
Administration officials said they've found one state law indicating that until new regulations are posted, the old parking rules apply and can be enforced. But the city has taken no official position yet.
News Staff Reporter Maki Becker contributed to this article.