When Lauren asked me if I was interested in a guest blog, my initial reaction was to say thanks, but no thanks. Then I thought about it for a few minutes and changed my mind. After all, APD has come a long way in my 21+ years here. There was a time when communication with the media was discouraged, if not completely restricted except for a few high level commanders.
When Burny Matthews became Chief in 1994, things started to evolve. I didn’t think of it in those terms at the time, but looking back, it was the first step in opening up the lines of communication between APD and the rest of the community. By the time Mike Noonan became chief, we jumped into the social media world. Overall, I think it’s a very good thing. Still, speaking on behalf of a public entity can be tricky. There’s a delicate balance between saying too much and not enough. Being honest and open without jeopardizing an investigation. Reassuring people that Alameda is a relatively safe place to live without encouraging complacency, and inspiring people to be vigilant without being paranoid. In the anonymous world of the internet, and blogging in particular, it’s easy to say anything without repercussions. In the public sector, it’s different.
So, with that in mind, I’ll talk about traffic safety. I grew up in Alameda, went to school here, and spent the first 34 years of my life here. Traffic has always been an issue, and I can honestly say I’ve seen it from both sides. When I was in high school, my mom would drive me to AHS down Otis Drive. Every day, and I mean EVERY day, there was an APD officer parked on or around the 2600 block of Otis Drive. I didn’t know anyone at APD, but my mom and nearly everyone else knew him by name. If you were running late, or just not paying attention, you had this officers autograph on the bottom of a citation. He was universally despised by everyone I knew who drove a car, and we all thought he must have something better to do. Maybe he did, maybe he didn’t, but he was doing his job. In the 1970′s and 80′s I didn’t get it, but in 1992 I started to get it. Now I preach it. It’s unreal how things change!
Traffic safety, especially on the Island, has always been the subject of debate. For decades, APD had the reputation of being the enemy of the motoring public. People complained about getting too many tickets, or that the entire city was a 25 mph zone (with only a couple of exceptions). Some said we wrote too many tickets, others thought we weren’t doing enough. I think the debate exists today, and probably will continue.
I will not bore anyone here with traffic stats and data. That information is easily accessible on the city website in the APD annual workload summary. However, I will say this; our property damage only collisions were down slightly in 2012, but injury collisions went up slightly. Pedestrian collisions dropped very slightly, and bicycle collisions dropped significantly. All of this occurred during a time when our traffic enforcement dropped. A large reason for this was an unforseen reduction in out traffic unit. As recently as five years ago, we has six motorcycle officers. In 2010, that number had dropped to one. This was due to a combination of injuries, retirements, and budget reductions. By the end of this September, we will be back up to four motorcycle officers. In combination with the efforts of our patrol officers, I anticipate our enforcement will increase dramatically over the next couple of years. Bad news for some, and great news for others. It’s all about perspective.
Whatever you think about APD or traffic enforcement, please believe me when I say that we want the community to be safe as much as anyone. We do not have quotas, and no one gets a bonus for writing tickets. It’s part of our job, and I expect our officers to be proactive in this arena. Traffic safety is a shared responsibility, and that means it’s yours as well. If you are honest, you know that you could drive a little slower, slow down at a yellow light, and yield for that pedestrian who just stepped off the curb. There are kids on bikes, joggers by the beach, and shoppers in the business districts. They are your friends, family, and neighbors. We will do our part. What about you?
Police Chief Paul Rolleri was appointed as Interim Chief to the Alameda Police Department, has serious Alameda cred, and needs suggestions for books to read for the next Story time with the Chief. Might I suggest “David Gets in Trouble” by David Shannon a cautionary tale best read by an authority figure in an uniform.