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Curbside Manner: Police Are Stepping up Efforts to End the Ancient Conflict Between Man and Car 

Wednesday, Apr 23 2014

Earlier this month, a police source told SF Weekly, "You have no idea how much pressure is coming down to write traffic citations." Last week, we all found out.

The San Francisco Examiner reported that cops dropped by San Francisco General Hospital to visit an 86-year-old who'd been struck by an automobile. They presented him with a jaywalking ticket (it was later rescinded, but it's the thought that counts).

This is, quite literally, The Year of the Citation. Those very words have been printed atop the lineup cards informing police personnel at Mission Station what assignments they'll be doing the next day, per an insider.

What they'll be doing, if they want to avoid trouble, is writing citations.

Police doled out 54 percent more citations in February 2014 than January 2013. Nicole Schneider, executive director of the nonprofit WalkSF, says the Year of the Citation is keeping pedestrians safe: "The data show increased enforcement is helpful."

Yet, according to police Cmdr. Mikail Ali, the data doesn't show that or anything else: It doesn't yet exist. The police are rejiggering their 2012, 2013, and 2014 pedestrian-vs.-vehicle tallies based on a 2013 switch to a different reporting system. This caused "inconsistencies ... we are in the process of going over the data in our database to make sure it is accurate."

That task figures to be complete by May 7. When asked if the Year of the Citation is actually benefiting the city's pedestrians, Ali can only respond, "I can't offer you any statistical proof. Anecdotally, we believe it's making a substantive change in people's behavior."

It's certainly making substantive changes in cops' behavior. SF Weekly is told motorcycle officers who don't hand out enough citations have been informed a sergeant will tail them like a mother hen. "This is not something we like doing," says a veteran officer. "We like to get bad guys. This is not fun."

It's also no surprise. In January, we published a synopsis of Chief Greg Suhr's December "All Hands On" meeting with his department's top brass. The summary wasn't penned by Suhr but one of the meeting's high-ranking attendees: "There are double the number of bicycles on the street than years before. There are many pedestrians also. If we match percentage wise [sic] what we have done in prior years, the PD will not be blamed when collisions occur. If we write less [citations], our detractors will say that collisions occur because the police are not doing their job."

The unknown cop who wrote this can be accused of callousness, but not foolishness. He or she hit the nail on the head.

In the Year of the Citation, no one can accuse the police of a lack of vigilance. Poor bedside manner, maybe.

About The Author

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi was born in San Francisco, raised in the Bay Area, and attended U.C. Berkeley. He never left. "Your humble narrator" was a staff writer and columnist for SF Weekly from 2007 to 2015. He resides in the Excelsior with his wife, 4.3 miles from his birthplace and 5,474 from hers.


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