Saturday, August 03, 2013

City taxpayers pay $188,000 a year to police Critical Mass

Photo: Laura Morton for the Chronicle

In his recent story on Critical Mass (Spinning Its Wheels: Critical Mass' Long Ride from Relevance) in the SF Weekly, Joe Eskenazi cited $188,000 as the annual price city taxpayers pay for the SFPD to babysit Critical Mass every month. I've been using an outdated and lower number---$125,000---based on a Joe Vazquez piece back in 2009 on Critical Mass for CBS 5.

The original link to his piece stopped working, and my inquiries to Vazquez and Channel 5 about that got no response. (My theory: Like Leah Shahum, Vazquez had an epiphany during the demo, became a bike nut himself, and flushed the story down the old Memory Hole to serve the cause.)

Which is why I now link instead to a Streetsblog piece reacting to the Vazquez story by one of Critical Mass's founders, Chris Carlsson.

I asked Eskenazi for his source for the higher number and he responded:

This was the number[$188,000] provided by the SFPD following a public records request. That was for calendar year 2012. If memory serves, however, there were higher costs reported when the rides were bigger and more cops were assigned to them.

Carlsson on the police escort for Critical Mass:  

...there's this curious idea of "police protection"! We're NOT protected by the police! We're being POLICED by the police! If they want to spend their money that way, which we've often encouraged them to forego and just leave us alone, that's the Police Department's problem, not ours!

The cops are protecting the public from the cyclists, not vice versa, since there were some violent incidents back in 2007 that prompted Mayor Newsom to increase the number of cops:

Newsom has ruled out any attempt to stop the rush-hour ride, contain its route or keep cyclists from their mass running of red lights. Instead, police will beef up the number of cops monitoring the monthly ride to 40 officers on bicycles, Hondas and Harleys. That's about twice as many as rode along with last month's ride. Cmdr. Stephen Tacchini, who will be in charge of the police force Friday night, said there will be no change in the department's hands-off policy when it comes to trying to control the ride. The cops, however, will be there to prevent or stop property damage or fights if they break out between cyclists and frustrated motorists.

The people of San Francisco have to pay for police protection from being attacked by the city's bike people. 

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