OCEAN CITY – The Police Commission considered a 30-day temporary permit at last week’s meeting, one that would allow potential taxicab drivers on the road during the permit approval process.
Currently, obtaining approval for a taxi permit can take up to four to eight weeks, often preventing potential taxi drivers from being on the roads for the majority of the summer. The police commission considered a temporary permit last week, in an effort to allow more drivers on the road.
In order to obtain a permit for driving a cab within the town limits, applicants must complete a variety of guidelines. Applicants are required to submit a completed application packet to the Ocean City Police Department, pay an application fee, be photographed and fingerprinted by the department, authorize the department to obtain a driving and criminal record, be at least 18 years of age, have a minimum of one year of driving experience and possess a driver’s license issued by any state or the District of Columbia in compliance with the law of the State of Maryland.
The police department also performs driving and criminal record checks of any applicant, which is often a lengthy process. Police Chief Bernadette DiPino explained at last week’s Police Commission meeting that receiving a criminal history on applicants could often take four to eight weeks, leaving many drivers off the road for much of the summer.
After receiving the person’s full application and background history, a driver can be disqualified based on a criminal conviction within the past 10 years, conviction of any offense involving the sale of narcotics, dangerous drugs, or controlled substances, conviction of any misdemeanor within the past 10 years involving sex offenses or indecent exposure, theft, driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, motor vehicle homicide, assault, or possession of narcotics, dangerous drugs, controlled substances, or paraphernalia.
Drivers can also be denied a permit based on past driving record.
DiPino explained that the purpose of the criminal background check is to ensure drivers within the town are not posing a threat to passengers.
Taxi drivers argue however that waiting four to eight weeks for a criminal background check keeps many drivers with clear criminal records off the road.
“My concern is that we would have a driver driving around that we wouldn’t normally have driving,” said DiPino.
DiPino suggested allowing a temporary permit with penalties or conditions.
One option presented was requiring the driver to post a bond in exchange for the temporary permit. Several drivers present at the meeting pointed out that the majority of applicants would not be able to afford a bond, which would place the burden on the cab companies.
DiPino also suggested enforcing a penalty for drivers who receive the temporary permit but later fail their criminal background check.
“We could disqualify them from applying for at least three years to deter people knowing they have a bad record to drive the eight weeks on purpose,” said DiPino.
“I don’t want a driver out there that isn’t safe,” said Council member Lloyd Martin.
“I won’t feel comfortable letting people drive unless there’s some sort of penalty,” agreed DiPino.
The Police Commission agreed on the 30-day temporary permit, with the condition that the applicant not be allowed to apply for three years if their criminal background check does not meet the set requirements.
The recommendation will go before the City Council as well as the city solicitor for concurrence before it is passed.