As the 22-Fillmore followed its route down 16th Street Sunday, the driver, Larry McKinney, called the San Francisco Police Department’s security on buses “a joke.”
On a scale of 1 to 10, McKinney gave the police department a three for safety dependability.
“SFPD rides my bus maybe two to three times a week, if that,” McKinney said as he drove past the Northern Police Station on Fillmore Street Sunday afternoon. “If I ever need a police officer, they’re no where to be found.”
Each San Francisco police officer is required to ride a city bus at least twice during a 10-hour shift, according to the department.
“They don’t do that,” McKinney said.
Drivers like McKinney blame the lax police patrols for last fall’s stabbings of Rachel Brown on the J-Church and Hatim Mansori on the 49-Mission bus. Moreover, McKinney said he blames police for feeling threatened on a daily basis by suspicious riders.
As an example of the relaxed attitude, he said that many officers sit in their squad cars as they write down his coach and run number when the bus is at a stop. They never ask about safety — most don’t even bother to get out of their cars to board the bus, he said.
McKinney added that when officers do ride his bus, it’s never longer then 10 minutes and most of the time it’s five minutes.
“I’ve never seen a policeman on Muni,” said Julene Johnson, a daily Muni rider for more than eight years. Johnson who lives in the Sunset and works downtown said she avoids the 6-Parnassus at night.
The police department’s disinterest in transit safety became clear to Johnson last year when a group of kids started a fire aboard an N-Judah she was on – police never showed up after she used the emergency intercom.
“I don’t feel safe on Muni,” she said and called police involvement with Muni “invisible.”
Robert Sleker, who also rides Muni every day, said that the only time he’s seen an officer on Muni was a year ago. Sleker who lives in Lower Haight, had to adjust his work commute after Muni discontinued the 7-Haight last December.
However, Police Captain Teri Barrett of the Park Police Station said a new squad of plainclothes officers has been added to the department’s Muni patrol rotation to curb crime.
McKinney, the driver on the 22-Filmore, said that plainclothes officers are rarer than uniform officers.
He also said he suspects officers try to avoid riding the bus through areas where they’re likely to encounter potential problems. Policemen get on between Sacramento and Sutter streets along his Fillmore route and get off before Geary and McAllister. McKinney has driven seven Muni routes over his eight years with the Municipal Transportation Agency.
“Overall, no I don’t feel safe on Muni,” he said alluding to an altercation between a driver and a patron late last year.
“I’m at the end of a 10-hour shift and I have yet to see a policeman come on my bus, I didn’t see one yesterday and the day before that or the day before that.”