NYPD Supervisor: Speeding Enforcement “Usually Done on the Highways”

The Post revealed earlier this week that NYPD trains only one officer per precinct to use a radar gun, which partially explains why speeding enforcement is close to non-existent in most neighborhoods. But while NYPD thinly spreads local precincts’ speeding enforcement resources over thousands of miles of surface streets where pedestrians and cyclists are at risk of getting struck by drivers, the department does have a number of officers trained to apprehend speeders. The problem is that they’re positioned on the city’s limited access highways.

At a forum organized by the New York Cycle Club on Tuesday evening, Inspector Michael J. Hurley, adjutant of Patrol Borough Manhattan North, told the audience that speeding enforcement is “usually done on the highways, mainly done by the highway district.”

The NYPD Highway Patrol is part of the department’s Transportation Bureau, which is distinct from local precincts. In February, the Transportation Bureau issued 4,664 speeding tickets [PDF], more than two-thirds of the total 6,495 speeding tickets NYPD issued citywide [PDF].

In other words, it seems that a large majority of NYPD’s speeding tickets are issued on highways, not local streets where almost all pedestrian and cyclist injuries and fatalities occur. Chalk up another reason for Marty Golden and the speed camera obstructionists in Albany to stop blocking automated enforcement.

Hurley, a high-ranking supervisor in the NYPD hierarchy, had a TrafficStat meeting to attend at 1 Police Plaza the next morning, where presumably he was grilled by Transportation Bureau Chief James Tuller about how the precincts in northern Manhattan are responding to data on traffic violence. But throughout the evening, Hurley did little to dispel the impression that anecdotes, complaints, and prejudice guide NYPD’s approach to traffic safety more than dispassionate analysis.

“We’re protecting cyclists from their own behavior,” he said in response to a question about whether police target cyclists for enforcement. “In most cases it seems like the cyclist is the one at fault.” At that point, fellow panelist Paul Steely White of Transportation Alternatives stepped in to remind Hurley of the 2006 Department of Health study that found motorist error contributed to most fatal bike crashes [PDF]. (The same study found that cyclist error also contributed to most fatal crashes, since in many cases both parties were found culpable. But as White said, dead cyclists can’t tell their side of the story, while the motorists who get cited in police reports have a distinct incentive to avoid blame.)

If you want the police to start targeting reckless driving in proportion to all the injuries and deaths it causes, Hurley did have some good advice: Go to your local precinct community council, which takes place once a month. “Let’s face it, the squeaky wheel gets the oil,” he said. “A lot of the enforcement we do is in response to community complaints.”