The New York Police Department's Internal Affairs Bureau Vehicle Enforcement Unit towed 1,855 vehicles with law enforcement plaques in the window in 2013, including 361 police department vehicles, 311 federal vehicles and 242 fire department vehicles, the New York Times reported Monday.
No fines are paid in most cases, but the drivers of the vehicles must show police documentation that the vehicle was being used for official business at the time of the towing.
A former Internal Affairs officer speaking on condition of anonymity said the former immune status of official vehicles was revoked in 2008 when an Internal Affairs Bureau sergeant was assigned to ride along with city tow truck operators as part of then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg's pledge to crack down on illegal parking by city employees.
Officials said it used to be more common for law enforcement cars violating parking rules to be given citations rather than a tow.
"It's only been in the last two years where they've been actually towing the vehicles," said Jon Adler, the president of the National Law Enforcement Officers Association.
He said New York is the only location he knows of where cars belonging to the federal government are targeted for towing.
"This issue unfortunately is a recurring issue in New York City."