Palo Alto’s traffic enforcement patrol returns

The Palo Alto Police Department's Traffic Detail is back on the streets. Photo courtesy of Palo Alto Police.

By the Daily Post staff

Palo Alto Police Chief Bob Jonsen announced today that the department’s traffic enforcement patrol has returned to action after a three-year hiatus.

The team, consisting of a motorcycle and SUV, hit the streets this week.

“They are a team dedicated to traffic enforcement, separate from patrol and will operate during commute hours or as needed. The team will focus on apprehending speeders and other traffic violators, patrolling school zones, and ensuring that oversized commercial vehicles use permitted routes,” said a statement from police.

“There have been numerous roadway modifications around the city involving new speed bumps, roundabouts, and signage. The traffic team will be patrolling those areas as well.

The Post first reported the return of the traffic enforcement unit on April 4. The following is from that story:

Speeders on Alma Street and Embarcadero Road, take heed: the Palo Alto police will be bringing traffic enforcement back this year, Chief Bob Jonsen told the Post.

The department doesn’t currently have dedicated traffic officers because of a staff shortage.

It’s still down 12 officers, more than 10% of the department’s full roster of 92 sworn employees. Jonsen plans to pull patrol officers for the assignment, and said he wants to bring back motorcycles.

The visibility of traffic enforcement officers on motorcycles discourages speeding and other traffic violations, and it reduces property crime, Jonsen told the Post.

“When people see there’s people out there getting cited for whatever it is… they start to drive a little more cautiously,” Jonsen said.

In June, a lieutenant will start building up a traffic unit and prepare a strategic traffic plan.

“There’s other things we can do to free up some of the workload,” said Jonsen, who was sworn in on Thursday (March 29). Previously he was Menlo Park’s police chief. Community service officers who currently write parking tickets used to be trained to handle non-injury crashes.

Jonsen said the department will retrain a couple of those officers to take those on, which will free up officers in the field to do traffic enforcement.

“My goal is to have at least two motors back in place by the end of the year,” he said.

What areas need patrol?

Jonsen said he would also task the new traffic lieutenant with deciding which streets will be patrolled by working with schools and residents on their areas of concern.

“I think that’s really important, that we’re visible and enforcing areas that may not have the most traffic data justifying the enforcement,” Jonsen said. “We’ll still do those, and patrol can help us, but for the dedicated traffic I want to be very strategic in how they enforce.”

The city completed official engineering and traffic surveys in 2016 for 70 road segments.

On 14 of them, most motorists drove so much faster than the speed limit, signs had to be changed so that the city could legally enforce the speed with radar.

For the police to be able to enforce speed with radar elsewhere in the city, other speed limits would have to be raised, which Jonsen said he doesn’t intend to do because of the number of cyclists and pedestrians in Palo Alto.

“People always say I must not miss the traffic in L.A., and I actually do,” Jonsen said of his days at the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. “The traffic in L.A. is confined to the freeways. Here, when you get off the freeway, it intensifies. It intensifies because of the amount of cyclists, the amount of pedestrians.” But even without radar enforcement, Jonsen said traffic officers would have “plenty to do.”


  1. When will they start ticketing bikers who blow through stop signs and red lights? A biker got killed in Palo Alto doing that a couple of years ago. Some enforcement would save the lives of bicyclists!

  2. I’m happy they brought the traffic patrol back. We’ve needed more enforcement for a long time, so this is welcome news. (I sure hope I don’t get a ticket, but knowing that a cop on a motorcycle might be around the corner makes you think twice about how you drive.) I second the comment above saluting the bravery of police officers. We’re lucky to have them!

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