SFPD Respond to Clamor for Foot Patrols

Written by FCJ Editor. Posted in Opinion, Politics

Published on July 29, 2010 with 4 Comments

The SFPD's response to community policing and foot patrols - a $10 thousand electric standup vehicle (ESV). Photo by Robert B. Livingston.

By Robert B. Livingston

July 29, 2010

The sidewalk around Macy’s at Union Square can get awfully congested, what with flower sellers and tourists lingering to take in the sights and get their bearings. And then there is always that annoying pop-up person holding a hand out… “Spare change?” Or the heart-tugging girl-waif, head down, looking bruised and hugging a puppy. Or the determined bottle collector, wearing a sun hat, who doesn’t speak English.

Suddenly I found myself amid a commotion of people who were bumping into one another toward the corner. “Oh God!” Seeing the cause of the commotion and pedestrian bottleneck, I thought, “had Segways made a comeback?”

Not quite.

What I saw causing the commotion were two San Francisco police officers standing upright on scooters cutting through the crowd ahead of me. The two appeared to be in perfect narcissistic bliss as they cruised along in slo-mo. For all the world they looked like victorious gladiators before admiring throngs, minus blades on hubs.

Were they looking for crime? Not likely.

Their purpose seemed better purposed for broadcasting their potential power and the novelty of a police-state in-the-making. (I don’t think two police on Razor scooters would have quite the same effect.)

“You look absolutely ridiculous on those,” I exclaimed to one. “and you’re blocking the sidewalk!”

Startled, he seemed to blush and with a sheepish grin pointed to a man in the crowd, “But he likes it!”

The man, snapping photos, responded, “Oh yes! Yes!”

Of course he likes it. He’d better like it.

I started taking photos of my own. “Don’t take our photos!” the officer blurted. I don’t know if he heard my reply. “But it’s a free country,” I said (A habit of thought I have to break).

By that time, the two “heroes” were already tooling off.

I imagined the crowd looking at me like a pariah, or just another San Francisco liberal kook. I don’t know.

Mostly I thought to myself, “I’ve got to get out of here.”

I went to get a coffee at Neiman Marcus– “Only the best!” I said to a man at the counter when I ordered a cup, adding, “What?! No tip jar?” The counter help smiled; I felt instant relief. (Whew! That was close.)

Welcomed back into society!

Today, while scrutinizing my photo for intelligence, I noticed that the Segway-like vehicles the police rode are manufactured by T3 Motion, an international company based in Costa Mesa, California. (Segway, plagued with problems, was quietly acquired by a British company last January).

Like the Segway, the vehicles are ridden while standing, and are in-door/out-door mobile. Further, they are “green and clean,” theoretically operating for pennies a day on electricity.

Unlike the Segway, they have three wheels.

New, they cost about $10 thousand a pop, but militaries and governments (of many nations, including that paragon of virtue Abu Dhabi, a customer) no doubt may acquire them at a discount when purchased in bulk.

The vehicle’s best feature? For those following the debate over Mayor Newsom’s Sit/Lie Ballot measure, and the Board’s preference for more police foot patrols
to combat real crime… the scooters ingeniously take the “foot” out of “foot patrols.”

What’s not to like?