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City attorney: Amazon’s private street flagging force is illegal

A private flagger is shown helping get Amazon employees onto a South Lake Union street. The city attorney's office says the flaggers are illegal. (KING 5 photo)

UPDATE: Seattle Department of Transportation spokesman Rick Sheridan says a contract company for Amazon has agreed move private flaggers to the sidewalks and only use them to highlight when drivers should exit/enter the Amazon’s parking garage. They will not engage in traffic control in the street. The city will check on their actions over the upcoming days to ensure compliance.


The City of Seattle says Amazon’s recent use of private flaggers to help employees get out of parking garages in South Lake Union is illegal.

The flaggers came under scrutiny after The Seattle Times reported the company had turned to private contractors to help manage the massive traffic jams caused by Amazon’s rampant growth around its multiple buildings.

The company previously relied on off-duty cops or parking enforcement officers, but with all the other construction and traffic chokepoints around the city, there aren’t enough to go around.

City transportation officials recently learned of the private flaggers and immediately sought the opinion of the city attorney’s office, Seattle Department of Transportation spokesman Rick Sheridan tells KIRO Radio’s Jason Rantz Show.

According to Sheridan, officials thought it might be a gray area, but the city attorney’s office says there’s no ambiguity – the flaggers are illegal.

“The only individuals who can control traffic in the city’s right of way are uniformed police officers,” says Sheridan.

The flaggers are employed by Star Protection, a private security company that branched into the new line of business, the Times reports. Between 12-15 people have been working as flaggers over the last month.

So, what’s the big deal? After all, the traffic is a nightmare. But Sheridan says the private flaggers don’t have proper training and understanding of the bigger traffic and pedestrian issues in the area. While they shepherd Amazon employees onto the street, they’re blocking other drivers, bike riders and walkers in the area.

“We don’t want situations where the individuals, because they’re working for a service provider, are only concerned with the needs of people getting into and out of a garage,” says Sheridan.

SDOT has notified Star Protection of the city attorney’s opinion, and will be keeping an eye on them to make sure the company complies, says Sheridan.

According to Sheridan, Seattle police officers will continue directing traffic at major intersections and chokepoints around South Lake Union.

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