The 86-year-old man was indeed at fault Sunday for walking away from St. Mary’s Cathedral on Geary Boulevard outside of the crosswalk. Though he was hit by a car and sustained a fractured leg, the officer issued him a ticket per the Police Department’s latest guidelines on citations for traffic collisions.
However, that citation is now being rescinded due to an unintended omission in the policy, The San Francisco Examiner has learned.
Dated Feb. 25, the policy reads: “Collisions where a non life threatening injury occurs and the officer has probable cause to believe that a party involved is AT FAULT for a violation of the vehicle code (Primary Collision Factor) and no criminal case will be pursued: The officer SHALL issue a citation for that violation at the scene.”
The officer was “very torn and troubled” about issuing a citation to the injured elderly man and brought the matter to his captain’s attention, according to Cmdr. Mikail Ali, who works with the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency. The department realized there had been an omission after “(Primary Collision Factor)”: “that caused the injury(s) to another.”
Ali said he did not know how those words were removed in the revision and reformatting from an original directive in January instructing officers to issue citations when parties at fault caused injury to others. But, he said, the words are being added back in and should be in the hands of officers by Monday.
Ali also said he called the victim to say police requested that the citation be dismissed.
However, Ali did specify that a jaywalker could be found at fault in certain circumstances. Had the driver swerved and been injured while trying to avoid the jaywalker or hitting the person, the citation would stand.
The policy itself spells out the recent shift in enforcement: “It has been the Department’s past practice not to issue citations or arrest the party at fault at the scene of collisions.”
In fact, many law enforcement agencies do not issue such citations because officers aren’t trained to make at-fault determinations, Ali said. It wasn’t until the last decade that San Francisco police got such training, but now more than 95 percent are qualified to do so.
In the elderly man’s case, a witness confirmed he jaywalked, Officer Gordon Shyy said.
Nicole Schneider, executive director of Walk San Francisco, called Ali about the citation Tuesday night and was relieved to hear that it is being rescinded.
“It’s not smart and he obviously paid the price already,” she said of the victim’s actions. “You don’t give people a citation for harming themselves, you give them a penalty for injuring someone else.”