You'd Think Ramming a Cop In the Crosswalk Would Get You Busted. You'd Be Surprised.

Citation to ensue. Or not.
Yesterday we wrote about a policeman sent sprawling by a motorist while he was in a North Beach crosswalk. We were surprised to learn that the driver, who sent the cop to the hospital, was not cited at the scene. In San Francisco, curbing your wheels incorrectly will get you a citation. Running over a cop while he's in the crosswalk may not, apparently.

"The only offense I've ever seen cited is hit-and-run," said pedestrian activist Manish Champsee, president of Walk San Francisco. "The way state law is written now, you have to prove malicious intent on the part of the driver -- and that's obviously a difficult bar to reach."

Champsee can recite numerous San Francisco instances of careless drivers sending cyclists or pedestrians soaring, yet facing as minor a charge as "illegal right turn" because there was no way to prove intent -- or even knowledge of striking the pedestrian before leaving the scene.

San Francisco Police Department Spokesman Sergeant Wilfred Williams, meanwhile, said that running over a cop in the crosswalk may not automatically be a citation-worthy offense.

When a vehicle strikes a pedestrian in the crosswalk, "everyone is not cited. It's on a case-by-case independent basis."

Police are often reticent to make blanket statements and instead use the phrase "case-by-case." That's understandable. Yet, short of driving through a camera-equipped red light while dangling a bottle of champagne out of the window, you'd think ramming a cop in the crosswalk would be a surefire route to the back seat of a police car -- let alone a mere citation.

Williams notes that the driver who struck the police officer may yet get that cite. The city's traffic collision review officer has one year and one day to conduct an investigation and issue a citation (or not). An investigation into this incident is ongoing.

Champsee, meanwhile, said this isn't a San Francisco problem per se, but a California one. Other states, namely Oregon, have passed the "Vulnerable Roadway Users Law." This punishes careless driving that leads to pedestrians or cyclists being hit, rather than merely targeting drivers who actually meant to use their car as a weapon or leave the scene of an accident. 

Obviously they don't have anything like that here. Perhaps that's why Sergeant Phil Esterhaus always told his fellow San Francisco cops, "Hey, let's be careful out there."

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