The tension between the towing industry and the Mobile Police Department was evident Tuesday afternoon in a city council subcommittee meeting to discuss the drafting of a new ordinance to regulate rotation list and non-consensual towing. The tension and the distrust in the towing community of the police developed last year after the police department suspended five towing companies from the rotation list for 60 days For what the department believed was overcharges and violation of the old rotation list ordinance and charges brought against one of those companies for insurance fraud.
The meeting Tuesday was the first opportunity by the towing industry to provide feedback to the city council, and their attorney and the attorney for the police department who drafted the ordinance. Most of the feedback provided by the industry revolved around making sure that the definitions and regulations were as clear as possible, and ensuring that the discretion given to police officers on the scene, and administrators in the police department by the ordinance isn’t exceeded or abused. This was evidenced by the fact that one tow company operator was concerned he was going to have to return to his place of business before dispatching on another call according to his interpretation of the ordinance, because he certainly did not want to violate the new ordinance.
Wanda Rahman, staff attorney for the Mobile Police Department, said during the meeting that if there were any questions or concerns or if the industry felt like there needed to be clarifications this was their opportunity to bring those concerns up and that she certainly did not want to feel like they were dictating to the industry what would be the rules going forward.
Crystal Smith, the president of the South Alabama towing and recovery association Facebook page, when asked how she felt that the meeting went responded with, “I believe that it was constructive insofar as members of the towing community were finally permitted to address their concerns. Something that I think should have happened much earlier in the process than once the draft had been prepared. Especially, after being informed that the industry would have input as it was constructed.
It did seem that the Committee attempted to understand the issues raised. However, I do question what will truly be done about these matters. After all, we had previously met and touched upon many of the same matters that were raised at today’s meeting, but yet most of these issues were still left untouched. It does leave one to contemplate whether these points will be addressed.
I also have questions concerning the drafting of the ordinance. Particularly, being told at today’s meeting that the attorney for the city council has no experience whatsoever in regard to the towing of motor vehicles and had pretty much used the art of copy and paste; grabbing from the ordinances governing towing in Huntsville and Tuscaloosa in lieu of creating an ordinance suitable to and that meets the needs of our city. As well as, the overall since of what seemed like an absence of knowledge in the field being governed by most at the table.
Not to mention, the discretion that the police department is being given to fray from the wrecker rotation list and suspend companies on a whim. Furthermore, upon request for a copy of the draft as it was written prior to being sent to the Department for their revisions, being denied. It does leave one to contemplate a few things.”
The attorneys will go back and make revisions to the draft ordinance to incorporate some of the suggestions and clear up some of the concerns of the industry before the public safety subcommittee meets again on the matter, which will happen before the full council takes up the draft ordinance.