Police Chief’s Proposed Traffic Enforcement Bureau Put on Hold

City Council, in split vote, says the idea of the bureau must first be addressed by the city’s Public Safety Commission before it’s placed on the consent calendar at a future meeting

PHOTOS: Eric Fabbro | SouthPasadenan.com News | (L): SPPD Chief, Joe Ortiz, (R): Rush hour traffic going north and southbound on Fremont Ave

A Traffic Enforcement Bureau with the South Pasadena Police Department must first be addressed by the city’s Public Safety Commission before the City Council can give its final approval on efforts to minimize traffic related complaints in the city. 

In a 3-2 vote last week, Councilmembers Diana Mahmud and Richard Schneider, along with Mayor Robert Joe, voted in support of it being reviewed by the commission. Council action was delayed and the item will be placed on the consent calendar at an upcoming council meeting. Dr. Marina Khubesrian and Michael Cacciotti voted in favor of the creation of the bureau.

Mahmud, Schneider and Joe all agreed it was important for the public safety commission to look at the issue first before it is returned to council for adoption under consent at a future meeting.

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Addressing the council during its March 4 council meeting was South Pasadena Police Chief Joe Ortiz, who says in order for the department to maintain a high level of service and address the increase in traffic complaints, the department is recommending the Traffic Enforcement Bureau.

PHOTO: Eric Fabbro | SouthPasadenan.com News | SPPD Officer Holland made 37 traffic stops in 2 hours during a traffic study on Thursday, March 5 on Fremont Ave.

“Establishing a bureau will provide the city with a dedicated team and resources to address traffic enforcement and education,” he said. “The proposed bureau will not require an additional position but will reorganize the existing police department staff.”

Ortiz said staffing for bureau will consist of a corporal and two officers, the police chief noting the city currently has only one officer dedicated to traffic. He said now that the department is fully staffed, “the resources are available to create a stronger focus on traffic.”

He told the council the primary complaints are those of speeding, reckless driving, and disobedience to traffic control devices.

“Over the past several years, staff has attempted to address

many of the city’s traffic issues through mitigation devices, coupled with enforcement efforts,” said Ortiz. “Based upon the Police Department’s call load, accident investigation efforts, the requirement for arterial roadway enforcement and administrative assignments, the overall number of available enforcement officers dedicated solely to traffic matters is limited.”

Traffic related issues, explained Ortiz, “are on the rise and continue to be at the forefront of calls for service for the South Pasadena Police Department,” he said as most communities rely heavily on traffic law enforcement programs to modify driver behavior and enhance road safety, adequate personnel

and supervision are necessary to ensure proper education and enforcement.”

Since 2014, explained Ortiz, the South Pasadena Police Department responded to 23,592 calls for service, 499 of

which were traffic collisions. During this time period officers issued 2,800 traffic enforcement citations. In 2019, officers responded to 25,262 calls for service, 472 traffic collisions, and issued 3,558 traffic citations. “The data over the five-year period indicates an almost 10% increase in both calls for service and traffic related incidents,” he told the council.

Once approved, as outlined in a city report, the new bureau would consist of two officers and a corporal and would be assigned with the primary duty of traffic enforcement and accident investigations while also assisting motorists and easing traffic congestion consistent with the city’s proposed General Plan promoting safety and mobility.

Upon approval of the resolution, Ortiz said recruitment and implementation of a traffic enforcement unit will begin. He estimates the unit will be fully operational within two months of its approval.