Chron discovers world-class "downtown ambassadors"

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The Chronicle runs a happy little article from Alexis Grant on the city’s parking enforcement officers, or, if you will, the new “Downtown Ambassadors.”

The story line seemed a bit familiar, however, and a little poking around turned up a July 19 story by KUHF-88.7’s Jim Bell that covered the same ground. A Parking Management press release dated July 18 seemed to supply much of the information for both stories. Here’s an excerpt from Bell’s earlier story:

Don’t call them meter-maids anymore. Writing parking tickets is now just one sentence in a new and longer job description. Parking Enforcement Assistant Director Liliana Rambo says they’re now walking city’s customer service reps.

“Parking Enforcement Officers are our daily link to customers. They see and they talk to citizens and residents and visitors every single day. We felt that they needed to be better equipped, and we wanted to give them additional resources to be able to answer the questions that they encounter day in and day out”

Rambo says at any given time, hundreds, even thousands of downtown visitors and newcomers need information and directions, and PEOs are walking libraries of information. They can answer questions about the city and its history, provide information and directions to downtown theaters, hotels, restaurants, and current happenings, but that’s only part of their new job.

PEOs are now trained to provide crowd and minor traffic control for police officers when needed, and to respond to health emergencies with CPR and the ability to use Automated External Defibrillators. Rambo says PEOs are in position to be the first responder in many kinds of emergencies and situations.

“They will be the ones that probably witness an accident, a minor accident happen. They will be the ones that notice that there’s a traffic light that is not functioning, and they’ll be able to serve as traffic management until a police department response gets to the scene.”

If the Hearst daily was a little slow to cover this olds, at least some of the Chron quotes were good:

Officers also brushed up on the city’s parking ordinances. Several said they benefited from the communication sessions, which included training on how to avoid stereotyping and how to resolve conflicts.

Those skills are particularly important for parking enforcement officers who patrol Houston’s streets, since the hardest part of the job can be dealing with angry drivers.

The techniques helped Pedro Santamaria, 25, strike a balance between being friendly and being stern with people he encounters on the street, he said.

Stern? Oh, wait, he must be referring to the planned crackdown on disabled parkers! Sometimes, you just have to let those disabled people know who’s in charge.

The Chronicle story also includes this useful information:

The ambassador course, taught at the Houston Police Department Academy, is new for parking enforcement officers. Those who have participated wear a gold cord draped over the right shoulder of their blue uniform to symbolize their additional knowledge and skills.


Several of the training hours addressed terrorism concerns, including how to identify and react to unusual activity or vehicles. Rambo said she’s trying to organize follow-up training on homeland security.

Once that follow-up training is completed, will the Downtown Ambassadors get to wear a gold cord AND cool uniforms like Chief Lambert’s elite METRO counterterror force? THAT would be world-class parking enforcement!

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Kevin Whited is co-founder and publisher of blogHOUSTON. Follow him on twitter: @PubliusTX