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Wednesday, April 13, 2011

You Can't Cry Your Way Out of a Speeding Ticket Anymore

Posted By on Wed, Apr 13, 2011 at 5:49 PM

click to enlarge You've got it all wrong, officer.
  • You've got it all wrong, officer.

Cops hate to cite speeding drivers almost as much as speeding drivers hate getting tickets.

Police are sick and tired of the whining and crying and worse -- the verbal abuse they get when pulling drivers over.

Perhaps that might influence them to look the other way when they see a speeding driver? Some pedestrians think this could be the case.

Yet Denis O'Leary of Park Station, which includes Golden Gate Park, is trying to change this perception. He has decided that cops should start working in teams so they can call for backup if drivers get mouthy.

Pedestrian deaths could be halved in this city if drivers obeyed speed limits, according to preliminary results from a study by the Centers for Disease Control and the San Francisco Health Department.

First, O'Leary says, he has to "change the culture" so that cops don't dread writing speeding tickets.


give somebody a ticket, and you get a hard time," he tells SF Weekly. "It

kind of helps when we do a focused enforcement operation, where we

spread that joy among ourselves."

Police already use other crafty methods to catch speeding drivers; one poses as a pedestrian while another waits to cite any driver speeding or illegally rolling through the crosswalk.

"I'm trying to conduct enforcement operations in the manner of narcotics operations and car theft abatement operations," O'Leary says. "We think in terms of teamwork, and depend more on each other. It's a lot easier to think about solving the problem with a team than with just one officer."

On Monday, we reported on a collision on Masonic Avenue where a speeding motorist hit a jogger, who suffered a broken ankle. The driver was cited for running a red light, although she told police she hadn't crossed the light after it turned from yellow to red. (Your correspondent was among those giving a witness statement.)

Like thousands of others, this driver might press her case in court -- and win. Given the volume of cases and scarce police time, it's notoriously easy in San Francisco to beat a traffic ticket. "There are a lot of dismissals," O'Leary says.

Motorists aren't the only ones going to great lengths to avoid traffic fines. As reported last year by SF Weekly's Joe Eskenazi, San Francisco cyclists are willing to fight endlessly to beat tickets, seemingly as a matter of principle.

Not every motorist pulled over by a cop complains, it should be noted. On April 12, O'Leary was driving an unmarked car when a cab driver drove on the wrong side of the road to overtake him. "I gave him a lecture and let him go," the captain says, adding that he had little choice because he didn't have his citation book on him. "He took it very well."

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Matt Smith


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