Controversial police ticketing program gets makeover

The San Francisco Police Department wasted no time overhauling the Safe Paths of Travel (SPOT) program, which was the subject of SF Weekly's "Building Overtime" cover story last week.

The program — in which police officers earning overtime pay from the Municipal Transportation Authority hand out $622.81 tickets on construction sites — has been altered in a manner SFPD officials hope will negate builders' contentions that police wrote thousands of tickets to justify their lucrative overtime gigs.

Instead of cruising the city looking for construction sites to ticket, one or two officers at every district station will now handle SPOT calls and respond to complaints about sites in that district. Lieutenant Nicole Greely, who now oversees the program, said this local approach will allow officers to issue admonishments and build relationships — instead of handing out exorbitant tickets.

Supervisor Aaron Peskin told SF Weekly that "the police department has got to come up with a plan to get off the overtime tit and get this on straight time" — but that hasn't happened. The SPOT officers will still earn overtime pay via the MTA. But the 15 or so officers now involved in the program will be ranked no higher than patrolman, meaning they will earn no more than $54.71 an hour in overtime pay. Extrapolating that with the hours Greely says officers will be limited to results in a total bill of roughly $27,335 a month in overtime — compared to the previous average of $50,000 monthly paid out by the MTA.

Greely said that the timing of this move — just days prior to the SF Weekly cover story highlighting the program's troubling aspects — was completely coincidental. It had been in the works for months, she says, adding that her e-mail to Peskin announcing the changes on Oct. 8 — the very day the article came out — was also a total coincidence.

Greely said after October the SFPD will re-evaluate and decide whether its new SPOT approach is working. Also to be re-evaluated is the role of erstwhile director Sgt. Pat Tobin, who did not return multiple calls from SF Weekly. Greely said Tobin will still be involved in the program — for this month at least.

 
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