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The Double Standard

September 1, 2022
Tracy McCray - SFPOA President

I must say when you are criticized for something some folks want you to do - but then don’t want you to do because of what will result when you do your job — is annoying as hell. Recently an article came out blasting the statistics of our citation writing prowess. As you can imagine and probably even read, we have on average given out just ten traffic citations a day. Said author stated they could spot three different violations in a matter of seconds while standing outside their office. Ok, like do you want a participation ribbon for that? What were the three violations? Any 22450 VC, 22349 VC, 21453 VC etc, violations? Out of the oh I don’t know twenty thousand plus vehicle code violations, you saw three. Let’s sign this person up! I mean if this person can do it in a mere matter of seconds, what’s our problem? We should be cranking out citations nonstop. Unfortunately, that is not how it works, and the author knows it. I spoke with this person for almost thirty minutes to provide context on how the job is done and how long each stop takes on average barring any deviation. Of course, it is all in how you manipulate words on a piece of paper, but reading between the lines of the article, is a harsh critique of our work ethic and implies we are on a work slow down. If this was the case, the city would be in even worse shape then what it already is.

Now people who don’t like the police, really don’t like the police because we aren’t giving out citations — in other words, policing. The irony is not lost on me. A few public requests for the traffic data have been pulled and low and behold, our traffic citations have fallen significantly. The same critics who have been chirping and chipping away at our profession, would have you believe that we have just stopped doing our job, or we are on strike because we don’t care. Nothing could be further from the truth. Here are the facts. Our traffic division is at less than half of what it used to be before the pandemic. That is a mere 2+ years ago. It stands to reason that less manpower would result in less citations. Not to mention, we do not write paper citations anymore. We use our phones and a portable computer to complete citations, so we are at the mercy of our technological systems. Systems go down, systems fail. What else? Stops themselves take longer. Although every contact is on our body worn camera, officers must still review and tag that footage. Then they must log the data from the traffic stop into a separate DOJ website in order to gather information on who we have stopped. Yes, the days of just making a traffic stop are gone.

Simply put, after the beating the profession has taken over the past several years, who is knocking at our door to be recruited for this job? Few to no one, especially in San Francisco. We have more exiting stage right then feet running to get in the door. I don’t have to expand on what we all know, for the ones who are still here and the ones who have left. Support. It would be nice to have it, but that isn’t happening. We do know that people support us, but oftentimes the ones who do not support us, use their platforms sprouting nonsense as truth while giving only half the picture.
How must an officer feel when they are doing their job? Even some station level officers are on par with the traffic company officers in terms of writing traffic citations. There is one officer, who works out of a station, who has written over 800 citations in a year. That officer took pride in doing their job until they were told to stop because they were getting too many complaints. I guess the few complaints they got was too much for their boss and the higher ups at the command level to handle. So now the few people an officer looks to have their back, has now turned into the person who has demoralized that hard-working officer. Now you have an officer who does not truly believe their boss or the organization has their back. People complain, that is a fact of life, but are we to understand that complaints are controlling how the job is done? It should not be, plain and simple. Now we have an officer who doesn’t feel supported in their job. And yet, they still do the work. No “work stoppage.” Now they go out keenly aware of self preservation. Should they go by the spirit of the law now instead of the letter of the law? Maybe give out more advisements in the hope that people’s driving behaviors will change? After all, we want to give a person a chance to do the right thing. Who knows, it may pay off in the end.