Are You Bike-Friendly? Los Angeles Sheriff Candidate Jim McDonnell Responds

May 15, 2014 at 6:49 am | Posted in Bike News | 4 Comments
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June 3rd, 2014 is the primary election for three critical offices for bicyclists in Los Angeles County. All voters in Los Angeles County can vote for Los Angeles County Sheriff, while voters in the first and third supervisorial districts can vote for County Supervisor. LACBC invited all candidates to share their perspectives on bicycling and transportation with our members and supporters. While LACBC does not endorse candidates, we encourage you to consider these responses before casting your vote on June 3rd.

Find out more about the election and how to register to vote here: https://www.lavote.net/

All candidate responses are available here: http://la-bike.org/vote

Patch_of_the_Los_Angeles_County_Sheriff's_Department1. As the chief law enforcement officer in the county, the sheriff is an important authority for traffic safety education. What would you do as sheriff to better educate both motorists and bicyclists about the rights and rules governing bicycling?

There are many legal tools available to law enforcement that can make our roads friendlier to cyclists and safer for our entire community.  These strategies, that I would aim to help promote as Sheriff, can and should include: improved education as a component of the issuance of driver’s licenses, enforcement of laws that prohibit driving which is dangerous to cyclists and others (including distracted driving), and greater awareness among law enforcement officers of both cyclists’ rights and the inherent dangers they face on the road. The Sheriff’s Department can also partner with cyclist community groups and work together toward more successfully increasing educational programming and public awareness about cyclist safety and sharing the road.

2. Motor vehicle operators have long enjoyed the option to attend traffic school in lieu of paying a fine. Do you support establishing a similar traffic diversion program for bicycle violations to provide bicyclists with an opportunity to learn the rules of the road and increase their safety?

I fully support efforts that can promote the dual objectives of education about, and enforcement of, our traffic laws and would support the creation of a traffic diversion program for bicycle violations. Fines, alone, will not address the underlying cause of violations or promote an enhanced awareness of the laws governing bicycle and traffic safety. An education diversion program would lead to an improved understanding of traffic laws and give the public the information and tools they need to cycle safely and prevent future accidents.

3. Our members have reported too frequent encounters with sheriff deputies that are unaware of bicyclists’ proper lane position or other traffic laws as they apply to bicyclists, resulting in general distrust of the sheriff’s department in the bicycling community. The LAPD has improved relations and resolved conflicts with the bicycling community by assigning officers to a bicycle liaison program, as well as establishing a Bicycle Task Force made up of senior officers and representatives from bicycling organizations. Do you believe there is a need to improve relations with the bicycling community, and if so, how would you suggest doing it?

The Sheriff’s Department has many avid cyclists who could serve as liaisons between the department and the bicycling community. There is no reason for friction between the law enforcement and the cycling community to exist; we all want our roads to be as safe as possible for those who use them — pedestrians, motorists and bicyclists alike. While I enjoy bicycling, I am not an expert on the issues that most greatly concern the cycling community. As Sheriff, I would seek out the perspectives of leaders in the bicycling community – the true experts — and welcome their advice on how to promote an enhanced collaborative working relationship.   I would also look to the strategies put in place by my former colleagues at LAPD as a model for building an effective channel for communication and sharing of ideas with the cycling community.

4. One of the most common complaints of bike riders is that law enforcement officers sometimes lack a clear understanding of bicycle law, and that enforcement can vary widely from one jurisdiction to another. What, if anything, would you do to ensure every sheriff’s deputy has a good working knowledge of the rights and responsibilities of bicyclists, and that the law is enforced uniformly throughout the county?

I agree that law enforcement officers are often insufficiently aware of bicycle-related laws, particularly as these laws and regulations—and riding practices—vary across our diverse county.  There are state laws, county codes, city ordinances and local policies; these provisions too often vary, are occasionally in conflict, and sometimes run counter to what some riders and others believe are safe practices.  I believe that we can improve deputy training and enforcement of bicycle-related laws and that the Sheriff should work with legislators and other stakeholders to make bicycle laws more consistent and supportive of rider safety.

5. It was recently revealed that nearly half of all collisions in the City of Los Angeles result in one of the parties fleeing the scene. What steps would you take to improve data collection on traffic crimes and reduce the rate of hit-and-run within your jurisdictions?

In Long Beach, we work with private sector owners’ security systems, red light cameras, and other public surveillance systems to assist with preventing crime and identifying suspects whenever possible.  When patterns are determined and certain areas are deemed to be high risk for hit-and-run incidents, we work with our community and increase surveillance in those areas, while also enhancing officer enforcement to more effectively address the dangers that are presented. These same approaches, along with enhanced data-driven strategies, should be used by the Sheriff and his justice system partners to address hit and run and other traffic-related incidents.

6. Bicycles do not respond the same way as motor vehicles do in traffic collisions, and usually leave little forensic evidence at crash scenes; in addition, bicycling victims are often unable to talk to investigators following a serious collision. Do you believe the LASD can improve investigation procedures for traffic collisions involving bike riders, and if so, how?

A lack of forensic evidence necessarily makes investigations more difficult; the inability of bicyclists to talk to investigators due to the magnitude of their injuries underscores the need for our community to prioritize and better address bicycle safety. We should use technology to investigate these incidents whenever possible. It is also very important to educate our entire community about how to avoid collisions before they occur, develop preventative strategies for a safer co-existence of cars and bicycles on our roads, and use the leadership of law enforcement to encourage the use of helmets and other protective gear that can minimize injuries should a collision occur.

7. Is there anything else you would like to say to Los Angeles County’s millions of bicyclists?

I recognize that cyclists are among the most vulnerable users of our roads, that better laws and enforcement is needed to protect them, that cycling is becoming a more prominent part of our transportation system and culture, and that law enforcement needs to partner with the cycling community on a range of issues. While cyclists are understandably concerned with how the Sheriff would affect the bicycling component of their lives, cyclists are also affected by the Sheriff as citizens of the county more generally. With that in mind, I would like to take this opportunity to tell you why I am running for Sheriff and what I believe I can bring to a department in need of new leadership and direction.

I have over 30 years of law enforcement experience, including as the current Chief of Police in Long Beach and as second-in-command of the Los Angeles Police Department (under Chief Bratton).  I’m the immediate past present of the Los Angeles County Police Chiefs’ Association, a board member of the Peace Officers’ Association of Los Angeles County, and a former president of the California Peace Officers’ Association.  I was re-appointed by Governor Jerry Brown to the California Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) and I’ve chaired the Anti-Defamation League’s Law Enforcement Advisory Committee.

I recently spent a year serving on the Citizens’ Commission on Jail Violence, an independent blue ribbon panel that conducted a thorough investigation into the abuses at the LASD. Our detailed report set forth 63 recommendations aimed at bringing about lasting and meaningful change within a department is facing tremendous challenges.  These reforms have become the blueprint for change embraced by nearly every other candidate in this race.

Throughout my career, I have been focused on not only fighting crime, but also preventing it. Working closely with community leaders, I learned how to strengthen law enforcement and community ties to enhance public safety.  Serving on various nonprofit boards and committees has given me insight into how community-based groups improve social conditions that then help reduce the root cause of crime, and how we as police can better work with those groups to magnify that effect. Using my history of working closely with community members and the success that resulted, I authored the plan that LAPD Chief Bill Bratton used as his blueprint for the department’s community policing strategy.

The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department is in crisis.  Over the past few years we have seen 20 deputies indicted by the DOJ for alleged federal crimes, over $100 million in civil legal judgments and litigation costs, and two pending federal civil rights investigations.  Against this backdrop, it is not surprising that the LASD has found itself facing a consistent barrage of public concerns and negative media, including accounts of a department plagued by favoritism, deputy cliques and rogue deputy misconduct.

I bring decades of experience, proven leadership, a record of reform, and an outsider’s fresh set of eyes unencumbered by past LASD practices or internal alliances.  I also have a deep understanding of the challenges facing the LASD from my year-long study of the LASD as a member of the Citizens’ Commission on Jail Violence.  I have an unwavering commitment to the prompt implementation of all 63 CCJV recommendations. And I have a track record of working with the community to keep our streets safe and ensuring that our law enforcement personnel are committed to the highest principles of constitutional policing.

I am supported by a broad, bi-partisan coalition from throughout our society: business and labor, Republican and Democrat, law enforcement and community advocates.  I am fortunate to have the support of such diverse leaders throughout the county who can vouch for my track record and believe in my ability to clearly identify problems as well as in my credibility to fix them.

Most importantly, I am running for Sheriff because I want to restore the public’s trust and bring renewed faith that the LASD is committed to protecting every member of our community, including those most vulnerable and least empowered. I hope to earn your vote on June 3rd; thank you for considering my candidacy.

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4 Comments »

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