Sheriff's department defends deputy's parking job - - Columbia, South Carolina |

Sheriff's department defends deputy's parking job

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(Source: Facebook) (Source: Facebook)

The Lexington County Sheriff's Department says a deputy's decision to park in what appears to be a handicapped loading zone at a West Columbia gas station was not a violation of the law.

A WIS viewer shared a photo of the August 30 parking job on the station's Facebook page.

"Here is Lexington County Sheriff parked in a handicapped parking spot at the Shell station off of Highway number one and Leaphart Road (sideways of all things)," wrote the viewer. "There's no way that they should be allowed to do this when we ourselves are fined or towed for doing so! How are they different from us?!"

We shared the photo with a spokesperson for the sheriff's department Friday morning.

Major John Allard said Friday afternoon that due to the quality of the photo, the department was having a hard time identifying the deputy who would have been driving the vehicle that day. It is unclear if he or she was on or off-duty at the time.

Allard said a supervisor went to the gas station Friday to investigate. In an email to WIS, Allard said the supervisor determined, "the Tahoe, based on the photo, was parked in a buffer zone that separates the handicapped parking space from the entryway for the store."

The sheriff's department has classified the way the vehicle was parked as "not illegal."

"The buffer zone is not designated for handicapped parking," wrote Allard. "In addition, parking is not prohibited in the buffer zone. The supervisor found a vehicle parked in the same buffer zone when he went to the store today. Vehicles that are parked in the buffer zone do not block access to the handicapped parking space."

ADA guidelines state handicapped parking spaces "shall have an adjacent access aisle" that connects, "parking spaces to accessible entrances. In parking facilities where the accessible route must cross vehicular traffic lanes, marked crossings enhance pedestrian safety, particularly for people using wheelchairs and other mobility aids. Where possible, it is preferable that the accessible route not pass behind parked vehicles."

"The method and color of marking are not specified by these requirements but may be addressed by State or local laws or regulations. Because these requirements permit the van access aisle to be as wide as a parking space, it is important that the aisle be clearly marked."

The ADA guidelines also state access aisles should be marked to discourage parking in them.

"While we still are trying to identify the deputy who parked in the buffer zone, the deputy did not park illegally and did not violate any law," Allard said.

Earlier in the day, a Columbia Police Department action demonstrated an opposite opinion.

An officer parked a police cruiser in a similar handicapped loading zone at a bank on Columbiana Drive on Thursday. The department investigated the incident and decided discipline and a ticket were necessary.

An email to Allard asking if Sheriff Metts condones this type of parking has not yet been returned.

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