Police officer parks in handicap spot, sheds light on common violation

Local

BRISTOL, Va. (WJHL)- Erica Hill, 44, is learning to live independently with limitations after she lost her left leg in November 2018 due to blood clots.

“It changed everything from getting out of bed to trying to fix food to getting dressed,” said Hill. “There are still challenges day-to-day that I wouldn’t have dreamed of.”

Among those challenges is getting to and from the car.

That’s why she was so frustrated when she saw a Bristol, Virginia Police officer illegally parked in a handicap spot on Tuesday.

Erica Hill snapped this photo Tuesday of a Bristol, Virginia police officer illegally parked in a handicap spot.

“So I drove around the parking lot several times thinking, ok, he’s going to come back out and move and he didn’t,” said Hill. “If it had been another handicap vehicle there I would’ve had no problem whatsoever having to park as far away as I did.”

Bristol, Virginia Police Captain Maynard Ratcliff said his officer was responding to an urgent call at the time.

“That’s no excuse,” Ratcliff said. “Our officers are human just like everybody else and they make mistakes from time to time and when they do we have to own it and try to do what we can to make it right and that’s what we did.”

Hill said she accepted the department’s apology but the officer isn’t the only offender.

“Handicap violations are unfortunately pretty common,” said Ratcliff. “We enforce what we can and what we find but I’m sure there are a whole lot that go on that are not enforced.”

Enforcement appears to vary vastly across the Tri-Cities.

Records from police departments across the Tri-Cities suggest enforcement of handicap parking violations varies widely.

Since July 2018, Bristol, Virginia officers have only written two tickets for handicap parking violations, according to department records.

Compare that to the 968 Johnson City Police have written.

“There needs to be more patrols going though the parking lots to catch people because it’s a violation. You do need to be held accountable,” Hill said.

Ratcliff said the fine for this violation in Bristol, Virginia is only $15. He said that could be increased as a deterrent.

Hill said, “I just think if people would just stop for one second and think this could actually inconvenience someone who truly needs it, that I think would make a difference.”

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