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?

  • grannygear

    This is a foot patrol? It is nothing more than more terror on the sidewalks for pedestrians! What is wrong with actually walking a beat, or as it is now called – foot patrol?

    When I was a street vendor in Philly we had the same cop on our corner the whole 5 years I did that job! It was HIS corner. And police on horseback clopped down the street occasionally, never the sidewalk!

  • You’d think that under difficult economic conditions for everyone, the SFPD would be looking at ways to save money.

    Speaking of which, I wonder how much money is saved when cops walk beats compared to car patrols, cars that cost money to operate and maintain – not to mention their impacts on the environment.

    If the SFPD really wants to run a tight, efficient police force, they would apportion foot patrols like infantrymen in the areas most impacted by street level crimes, and use (less) patrol vehicles as support units.

  • Robert B. Livingston

    I just noticed that C.W. Nevius at the Chronicle reports that the scooters were a try-out. http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/blogs/cwnevius/detail?entry_id=68916&tsp=1

    Nevius seems to report that these could potentially replace black and white cruisers. Maybe that should be a requirement?

    Why not replace the Harley Force with these– they are certainly more regal.

    Imagine the entourage when the next dictator rolls through town.

    Why can’t our police be more like the ones you see on Monk?

  • Ann Garrison

    How many nurses at General did the City lay off some months back?

    And you know what those little EVs require? Electricity for one; most of San Francisco’s is still natural gas and nuclear power. Aluminum for two. So let’s go build some more hydroelectric dams, mine some more uranium and build some more nuclear power plants in the Global South to power some aluminum smelters, some of the world’s most electricity hungry plants. Let’s consume some more resources, fuel some more resource wars, and further pollute the land, air, and water so the SFPD doesn’t have to walk.

    And, what’re they supposed to do with those things if actually required to respond to some sort of a situation? Stop and bolt them down to the nearest tree or telephone poll?

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