New York City traffic enforcement agents are advocating for the use of body-worn cameras to shed light on the daily mistreatment they endure while dealing with parking violations and unruly motorists.
The union that represents the city’s 2,500 traffic agents, known as the Communication Workers of America Local 1182, recently raised the request during contract negotiations.
According to union officials, the cameras will ensure agents’ safety on the job as they perform duties such as issuing parking tickets and directing traffic.
“It is a very important issue for our members’ safety. The body camera is even more important than the bulletproof vest,” said Sayed Rahim, president of the traffic enforcement agents’ union.
Rahim noted that traffic agents – who are part of the NYPD – frequently face assaults, verbal abuse and baseless accusations while carrying out their duties of issuing parking tickets and directing traffic.
Equipping traffic agents with body-worn cameras would serve as a game-changer, Rahim added, saying that the cameras would not only provide evidence of any misconduct during encounters but also act as a deterrent against disrespectful behavior from motorists.
“Right now, we have no proof of anything happening out in the street, and everybody is blaming our agents. If everything is recorded, we can prove who is at fault. It’s a very important issue for our members,” he said.
While the city’s largest police union, the Police Benevolent Association (PBA), initially opposed the use of body-worn cameras, Local 1182 took a different stance.
The PBA eventually agreed to outfit its members with cameras as part of negotiations for an 11% pay raise with the city.
However, Local 1182 recognizes the potential benefits of recording encounters to protect their members’ well-being and counter false allegations, especially amid a rise in assaults targeting traffic officers.
Statistics from the NYPD revealed a 10% increase in attacks on traffic agents in 2022, with 43 agents reported as assaulted compared to 39 in the previous year. Additionally, 18 agents faced harassment from motorists, and three agents were robbed of their equipment, including electronic ticket books.
In addition, 42 motorists tried to prevent the agents from issuing them tickets, records show.
The incidents underscored the need for measures to enhance the safety of traffic agents while carrying out their vital responsibilities.
Union members said that clashes between agents and motorists occur on a daily basis, with many incidents going unreported. In one instance, FBI agent Kenneth Diu allegedly attacked a traffic agent in Queens in April 2022 after he issued a ticket to Diu’s parked Jeep.
Diu managed to void the ticket during the assault and proceeded to handcuff the agent just as the agent’s supervisor arrived at the scene. The FBI agent faced charges of misdemeanor assault, tampering with public records, computer tampering and obstructing governmental administration.
Traffic enforcement agents, who generate significant revenue for the city, have a starting salary of $41,493, which is one of the lowest among city employees.
The union hopes that under the new contract, the city will agree raise the starting salary to $44,000, which will include a raise to $65,000 after seven years.
“This job has dramatically evolved over the last 30 to 40 years,” Rahim said. “We’re not only writing summonses, but we’re responding to emergencies, like building collapses.”
Rahim also said the agents supplement regular NYPD officers during large events.
“We’ve become first responders, and since we wear police uniforms, we’ve become force multipliers to help the NYPD at major events like parades. But the city has failed to treat us differently, falling back on the old job description.”
By equipping traffic agents with body-worn cameras, the union hopes to document encounters, establish accountability and ultimately ensure the safety of its workers.