Plan Would Track SFPD Officers on Muni Using Translink Cards

3377616604_897e497704.jpgFlickr photo: AgentAkit
Everyone knows spotting an SFPD officer on Muni is rare, but now the department thinks it has a way to provide some accountability and track the number of officers who are actually riding the transit system: Translink cards.

Tony Parra, the SFPD Deputy Chief and director of Security Enforcement for the MTA, announced at yesterday's MTA Board meeting that he'd like to see officers at three stations -- Bayview, Mission and Ingelside -- get Translink cards. That would amount to 600 officers, considering about 200 are assigned to each station. 

He said a Translink card would be given to each officer individually, and explained how tracking them would work: "An officer would board the revenue vehicle, tag the reader on board that vehicle, ride the system for whatever amount of time they're available to, and as they exit the vehicle they will tag a secondary reader and now we will have a start date and time and a finish date and time for each officer participating in this program."

The SFPD's Bus Inspection Program requires each sergeant in a patrol division and each officer "assigned to a radio car" to make two transit inspections per shift. Officers on foot patrol are required to make at least four inspections per shift.

Parra made mention of the Translink proposal before the Board approved a memorandum of understanding with the SFPD, a document that is supposed to give MTA Chief Nat Ford more control over SFPD officers patrolling Muni, including the Traffic Company and the Muni Response Team.

Outside the meeting, Streetsblog asked Parra if there has been stepped up efforts to put more officers on Muni in light of the criticism.

"Yes, we are trying to improve our capabilities and our performance riding the system. We think it's very important and provides a peaceful environment and we want to ensure that for the riders."

And does giving the MTA more control over the officers mean better enforcement of double parkers in bike lanes, and ticketing drivers in bus-only lanes?

Parra: "Right now police officers can issue that parking violation for someone that is in the bus stops. They continue to do that. Beat officers, especially, that have bus stops along their beats are asked to issue those citations now. That's part of regular policing."

Streetsblog: "It just seems, though, and I have no evidence to really support this, that it doesn't happen very often. I saw it happen a few weeks ago after Sunday Streets. There were two motorcycle officers pulling people over and telling them to get out of the bike lane. But they weren't issuing citations, though. So I'm curious: Will we see a new effort to do that?"

Parra: "I think we are. And remember, every time a police officer pulls over someone the objective is to change that inappropriate behavior one way or another. One can be issuing a citation. Another can merely be a discussion, a quick discussion, a warning, or to enlighten. I see this quite a bit, where adults on bicycles don't know there's a law against riding a bicycle on the sidewalk, and so, spreading this information through an encounter or stop is a perfect opportunity to educate the public."