New SFPD Traffic Chief Ann Mannix Hesitant to “Focus on the Five”

SFPD Traffic Company Commander Mikail Ali has been replaced by Northern Station Captain Ann Mannix, the SF Chronicle reported today.

Ann Mannix. Photo: SFPD
Ann Mannix. Photo: SFPD

Ali, who held the position for two-and-a half years, has repeatedly promised that the SFPD is committed to its “Focus on the Five” enforcement campaign. But under his tenure, only one station has come close to meeting the target of issuing 50 percent of traffic tickets for the most common causes of pedestrian injuries — speeding, violating pedestrian right-of-way in a crosswalk, red light running, stop sign running, and turning violations. The share of tickets to people walking and biking, meanwhile, has increased.

In an interview with Streetsblog, Mannix expressed reservations about ordering officers to follow the SFPD’s 50 percent goal.

Those five violations are the most common causes of pedestrian crashes, according to SFPD data compiled and reported by the SFMTA. SFPD’s “Focus on the Five” campaign is predicated on using that data to deploy traffic enforcement resources most effectively. The campaign was announced two years ago, and Ali set the 50 percent minimum one year ago, but thus far only Richmond Station has met the goal.

When asked if she would help get the department to meet its enforcement targets, Mannix questioned the data and told Streetsblog that “it’s a very fine line between issuing a quota to police officers to do something — they observe a violation and cite it. I cannot, by law, make them go out and issue a citation.”

“We will continue to focus on those five. Will they be the highest numbers we cite? Not necessarily.”

Walk SF Executive Director Nicole Schneider said she hopes that Mannix “embraces an approach to ensure that SFPD’s citations are based on data… for the Police Department to do their part in shifting the culture on San Francisco streets so that a human life is worth more than speed.”

But Mannix contended that speed is likely overrepresented in the data collected through the Statewide Integrated Traffic Records System (SWITRS) because under the system, unsafe speed is often marked as a primary factor in crashes when drivers weren’t exceeding the speed limit. “If the speed limit’s 25, you could be going 10 mph and be going too fast for conditions — you were speeding,” she said. “That would be a primary factor barring any other obvious collision factors.”

Rather than increasing the share of “focus on the five” citations, Mannix said the SFPD’s “biggest challenge right now is collecting and providing data.”

When asked if she’d try to get other SFPD stations to model Richmond Station, which has exceeded the enforcement targets all year, she asked, “Is that the panacea we’re looking for? Is that going to resolve issues we have in the city? It’s education, engineering, and enforcement… Some districts lend themselves better to capturing the top five violations than others.”

Mannix noted that Tenderloin District only has one stop sign, whereas Richmond has hundreds, which will affect the prevalence of stop sign violations and citations. Yet Tenderloin officers issued 43 percent of their tickets to pedestrians in September (the highest share of any station), and none to drivers violating pedestrians’ right-of-way.

In 2012, as Northern Station Captain, Mannix told Streetsblog that a couple who was harassed by a driver while biking “may have been following too closely” when the driver reportedly braked suddenly in front of them and caused one to crash. To make her point she cited a vehicle code that only applies to motor vehicle drivers, and also falsely claimed that people on bikes must stay “to the extreme right” of a traffic lane.

As for why Ali was replaced, SFPD Chief Greg Suhr told Chronicle columnist Heather Knight that it had nothing to do with his performance. He said Ali “did a great job overseeing the department’s response to Vision Zero,” and touted a slight dip in pedestrian fatalities from 2013 to 2014, from 21 to 17. “What do they say? Numbers don’t lie,” Suhr said. “He did a good job.”

More often than not, Ali’s statements to reporters have pointed the finger at victims. Earlier this month, he said many of the deaths were due to “really, really bad behavior” on the part of people killed by drivers, and has previously said some pedestrian crashes may be caused by confused Asian immigrants.

Ali was transferred to a position at SF International Airport, which according to Knight “usually… means they did something wrong and will never be heard from again.”

“Over the past year, Chief Suhr and Commander Ali helped bring traffic enforcement to center stage,” said Schneider, noting that total traffic citations increased by more than 50 percent from 2013 to 2014, though few of those tickets are going to the “five” violations. “As we head into the new year, we’re going to be focusing on the department’s goal.”

  • phoca2004

    Not an auspicious opening.

  • Rick Bernardi

    The same Ann Mannix who backed up an anti-bike cop when he blamed the victims of a road rage assault:

    http://sf.streetsblog.org/2012/03/13/nightmare-on-oak-street-couple-harassed-while-biking-blamed-by-sfpd/

  • Classic Mannix(?).

  • murphstahoe

    “If the speed limit’s 25, you could be going 10 mph and be going too
    fast for conditions — you were speeding,” she said. “That would be a
    primary factor barring any other obvious collision factors.”

    Cops love anecdotes.

  • murphstahoe

    touted a slight dip in pedestrian fatalities from 2013 to 2014, from 21
    to 17. “What do they say? Numbers don’t lie,” Suhr said. “He did a good
    job.”

    As The Dude would say “Obviously you’re not a statistician”

  • allisondan

    Wow, insight into what the data in SWITRS “really” means. She deserves a raise. Or maybe termination.

  • jd_x

    It’s sad how a city that is supposedly so progressive has such poor leadership from the police department. It’s like SFPD is stuck in the car-centric 1960s while the Planning Department, MTA, etc are moving into the 21st century and realizing that Livable Cities are the future. There is a massive disconnect between the SFPD (and the SFFD, for that matter) and the agencies of the city which are changing our street designs to make roads safer and more convenient for pedestrians, cyclists, and public transit users.

    “It’s a very fine line between issuing a quota to police officers to do something — they observe a violation and cite it. I cannot, by law, make them go out and issue a citation.”

    What? You don’t need any quotas. Just tell your officers to go out and cite the most egregious and dangerous violations on the streets. And use statistics, not your car-centric bias, to determine what those are. You will find that 95+% of your citations will be for motorists.

    Pedestrians and cyclists will forever be relegated to second-class citizens on our streets until there are massive changes in the mindset of SFPD away from a windshield perspective and towards a “complete street” view.

  • Dave Moore

    The goal is not to have a large number of citations. Citations are only a means to the end of deterrence.

    Cyclist + pedestrian citations already are only about 5% of the total so that 95+% you ask for is already the case. For example in September (the last month I could find): http://sf.streetsblog.org/wp-content/uploads/sites/3/2014/12/September-2014-Traffic-Citation-Report-for-the-Public-with-stations.pdf

    But that doesn’t really tell much of the story. Of the 11146 citations over 7000 are listed as “other” (over 60%). Are they very minor infractions, or does it represent a very long tail of difficult to classify things? Note: if you eliminate the “other” then the percentage of motor vehicle infractions falls to 87%. So the real number is somewhere between the two.

    What stands out to me is the tiny number of red light infractions, only 444. This seems like an easy target. Stick a cop on foot at a commonly run light with a chaser car a half block down the road. Wait 30 seconds. Like shooting ducks in a barrel. Most importantly once word got out people might change their behavior, which is the whole point.

  • And….so you can ticket for excessive speed for the conditions last time I heard.

  • Nicasio Nakamine

    Yikes. Mannix comes off as a terrible choice for Traffic Chief after reading that article.

    Get ready for more excuses!

  • Volker Neumann

    “What do they say? Numbers don’t lie” – not really trying to get down on Ali but 21 to 17 is probably not really statistically significant, Chief Suhr.

  • Izsak

    Ugh.

  • SF_Abe

    That WOULD be a dangerous activity worthy of a ticket. Swinging a hammer on a construction site is fairly safe, but swinging a hammer in a crowded elevator is pretty dangerous.

    Conditions matter

  • SF_Abe

    For real.
    You don’t need any quota– just put cops out ON FOOT in the areas with the most injury. After a couple weeks they’ll start to notice bad behavior that they just can’t see from their squad cars.

  • murphstahoe

    s/sqaud car/donut shop

  • Jobeesh

    Last I heard the police were behind vision zero. If focus on the 5 doesn’t work for Ann then what alternative strategy suggestions does she have?

  • njudah

    What a shock. The SFPD could give a shit, most of them don’t live in SF anyways, so it doesn’t affect them. They can do what they want and tell the citizens “FU and give us a raise”. And we do!

  • Gezellig

    This does not bode well.

    http://youtu.be/7rTJtVyQhN0?t=3s

  • aj

    Given the influence of Streetsblog, it’s important to get the facts/vehicle code straight. Editor Aaron Bialick states: “she cited a vehicle code that only applies to motor vehicle drivers, and also falsely claimed that people on bikes must stay “to the extreme right” of a traffic lane.” Editor Bialick implies that there are Rules of the Road that apply to motor vehicles from which bicyclists are exempt (in his example, a bicycle following too close).

    Here’s what the Vehicle Code says: “21200. (a) A person riding a bicycle or operating a pedicab upon a highway has all the rights and is subject to all the provisions applicable to the driver of a vehicle by this division,”

    21200 is contained in Division 11, RULES OF THE ROAD. So contrary to what Editor Bialick implies, bicyclists are subject to the same fundamental rules of the road that car drivers are supposed to obey.

    Regarding bikes staying to the right, here’s Vehicle Code 21202 in full:

    21202. (a) Any person operating a bicycle upon a roadway at a speed
    less than the normal speed of traffic moving in the same direction
    at that time shall ride as close as practicable to the right-hand
    curb or edge of the roadway except under any of the following
    situations:
    (1) When overtaking and passing another bicycle or vehicle
    proceeding in the same direction.
    (2) When preparing for a left turn at an intersection or into a
    private road or driveway.
    (3) When reasonably necessary to avoid conditions (including, but
    not limited to, fixed or moving objects, vehicles, bicycles,
    pedestrians, animals, surface hazards, or substandard width lanes)
    that make it unsafe to continue along the right-hand curb or edge,
    subject to the provisions of Section 21656. For purposes of this
    section, a “substandard width lane” is a lane that is too narrow for
    a bicycle and a vehicle to travel safely side by side within the
    lane.
    (4) When approaching a place where a right turn is authorized.
    (b) Any person operating a bicycle upon a roadway of a highway,
    which highway carries traffic in one direction only and has two or
    more marked traffic lanes, may ride as near the left-hand curb or
    edge of that roadway as practicable.

  • gneiss

    aj – read the code she cited, 21703. It states, “The driver of a motor vehicle shall not follow another vehicle more closely than is reasonable and prudent, having due regard for the speed of such vehicle and the traffic upon, and the condition of, the roadway.” A bicycle is a vehicle yes, but not a motor vehicle. This provision does not apply to people who ride bicycles.

    As for the staying to the right provision, the critical one for people on bicycles in the city, is (3). Just about every lane on San Francisco streets is of “substandard width”. As a result, a person who rides a bicycle in the city on almost all city streets has the right to the whole lane.

  • aj

    gneiss–

    I was aware that 21703 specifically stated “motor vehicle.”

    What I failed to make clear in my comment was that 21200 says that a bicyclist “is subject to all the provisions applicable to the driver of the vehicle by this DIVISION.” The referenced “division” is, once again, Division 11, RULES OF THE ROAD.

    The rules of the road in Division 11 do apply to bicyclists.

    Of course, an argument can be made that because 21703 specifically states “motor vehicle”, you could win this as a “tech” in Traffic Court. However in the Court of Physics, I think a bicyclist would lose out by following too closely and hitting a car. Vehicles, whether motorized or self-propelled, should allow space, reaction & braking time, and distance to avoid hazards (such as the car ahead stopping suddenly).

    So even if you really are technically exempt from the “following too close” law, you would just be putting yourself in harm’s way by not adhering to that common sense principle.

    Aside from the legalities, it’s in the interests of all to drive, bike, walk with a defensive attitude, looking to avoid potential hazards, and to avoid the mistakes and wrong-doing of others. Although not specified in Vehicle Code it’s best to practice Defensive Driving, Defensive Biking, Defensive Walking for your own and others’ safety.

    The road is shared by the various modes (pedestrians, bikes, cars, trucks, buses, streetcars). The responsibility for safety should be similarly shared. A “holier than thou” and “that doesn’t apply to me” attitude does not promote safety.

  • gneiss

    There is a reason why 21703 applies specifically to motor vehicles not bicycles, and it’s not just some “technical” violation. That’s because on a bicycle, you can safely draft with other bicycles in a pace line. There are a number of reasons why this can be done safely, but suffice to say, if the language was written to say “vehicles” rather than “motor vehicles” then drafting would be a citable offense. As a result, you cannot cite a person on a bicycle for 21703. You’d need to look elsewhere in the vehicle code.

    As to to your second point that drivers, people who ride bikes, and those who walk “share” responsibility for safety on our streets is the perspective of someone who doesn’t understand the basic principles of Vision Zero, which is that motorized traffic disproportionately causes injury and death on our streets. It is wrong to suggest that they are equal partners,and wrong to argue that if only those who walk and ride bicycles act more defensively that we will measurably effect safety. I would argue that people who ride and walk know quite well how dangerous it is and it is patronizing in the greatest degree to suggest otherwise, particularly if you’re going to give us some anecdotal story about how some pedestrian didn’t look you in the eye as they crossed the street.

    I would suggest that you read this streetsblog article: http://sf.streetsblog.org/2013/07/02/police-commissioners-to-sfpd-focus-on-drivers-who-endanger-pedestrians/ It will help you understand why safety advocates are not pleased with the language coming from the new SFPD traffic chief.

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