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Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Sit Lie: Controversial Law Hardly Ever Needs to Be Enforced, Cop Says

Posted By on Tue, Aug 30, 2011 at 8:30 AM

click to enlarge Dude! You may neither sit nor lie! - JOE ESKENAZI
  • Joe Eskenazi
  • Dude! You may neither sit nor lie!

For a long while, the city's potential -- and now voter-enacted -- sit-lie measure was the political talk of the town. Now, it seems, no one is talking much about the contentious 2010 ballot measure turned law -- and that includes the police officers enforcing it.

Officer Brett Kaczmarczyk often walks a foot beat or rides his bike along the portion of Haight that last year served as ground zero for the city forces claiming sit-lie was necessary to save hard-working San Franciscans from dangerous punks and opponents claiming it was San Francisco's first step to authoritarian dictatorship.

In practice, says Kaczmarczyk, it's far from either of those. In fact, it's hardly practiced. The veteran cop says he rarely has to even bring up the law with folks loitering on the street, because they know it already. They see him coming and they get up and move along.

For those who are new to the city and may not know that it's now illegal to sit or lie on Haight sidewalks for much of the day, Kaczmarczyk says he matter-of-factly informs them, and notes that, if they wish, they can sit on benches, in bus shelters, or in the park. "Rarely, if ever, do I have a problem. If you are cordial to people they will be cordial to you, and most of them simply say 'Oh, okay,'" he says. "It never gets to the point where I actually have to enforce it."

While critics claimed the letter of the law would allow Kaczmarczyk and his colleagues to declare martial law in the Upper Haight, the police officer says it's all about discretion. He doesn't bother talking to folks sitting on apartment steps unless they've been there for hours. He would feel embarrassed bringing up sit-lie with someone sitting on the street trying to eat a meal (though folks drinking in public will be cited). The law, in his view, was meant to deal with "chronic abusers -- you know, people who sit in one spot and set up camp."

SF Weekly only just requested the total number of sit-lie citaitons thus far handed out -- and we'll publish that information when we find out. But, according to public defender Jeff Adachi, sit-lie matters have not gummed up the criminal justice system.

"The law certainly hasn't turned out to be the [draconian] enforcement mechanism that some anticipated," he says.

And, adds Kaczmarczyk, worry not: You will not be cited by accident. "I won't come up to you if you're sitting there and eating some pizza," he says. "We're busy. We've got other stuff to do." 

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About The Author

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi

Bio:
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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