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Traffic-Directing Citizen Found Not Guilty

Alan Ehrlich was originally fined $193 for directing traffic at the corner of Fair Oaks and Huntington Drive when a traffic light went out in September.

South Pas resident Alan Ehrlich——was found not guilty Monday at L.A. Superior Court. 

"The judge recognized my civic volunteerism and could not find any code section that might have been applicable, not even jaywalking," Ehrlich wrote in a letter to his friends and family Monday.

Ehrlich was originally fined $193 for vehicle code citation, 21956 (a) Pedestrian in Roadway, which he posted as bail when he pleaded not guilty at an arraignment in November. 

While the traffic backed up due to unplanned down traffic light, SPPD said Ehrlich put himself and others in danger. 

"Mr. Ehrlich was waving cars through posted stop signs and causing a very dangerous condition," " ... When signals are out and temporary signs are posted, we do not direct traffic."

Traffic Flow Management 

Since cited, Ehrlich says he's met with various law enforcement and City staff including City managers, officers and staff at L.A. City Department of Transportation and the LAPD.

He's also appeared before both the South Pas City Council and Public Safety Commission (PSC) to push for a better City policy in regards to effective traffic flow management. 

"The Public Safety Commission is coming up to speed on the issues outlined by Mr. Ehrlich, but we are not in a position to make any policy recommendations at present," said PSC Chair Charles Minning. 

"We also feel that these issues should be jointly addressed by both the PSC and the Transportation Commission."

Implementing a Plan

One of Ehrlich's suggestions involves invoking a Mutual Aid Agreement with neighboring communities—like Alhambra and Pasadena—that have Traffic Control Officers (TCOs) on staff. (TCOs don't carry or use force service weapons but are specially trained to direct and expedite traffic.)

His vision also includes training and deputizing civilian volunteers. Yet Police Chief Joe Payne says that idea would put both the volunteers and motorists in danger—in addition to exposing the City to liability.

"We have had many discussions at the staff level. Some of [Ehrlich's] ideas have merit, while other do not," said Payne. 

"The most promising initiative being implemented by public works is a back-up battery power source for critical signalized intersections. That plan is moving forward as funding allows," he continued. 

Regardless, Ehrlich remains hopeful. 

"The processes of government moves slowly, but I remain optimistic that eventually better polices and solutions can and will be put in place," he concluded in his letter to friends and family Monday afternoon. 

Related: 

Mindy B December 16, 2011 at 04:38 PM
Man, SPPD can be laaazy. Any time a light is out they throw up some stop signs and hope the public figures it out. This was the case at Fair Oaks and the 110 for several days after the windstorm. Traffic was snarled as a result. In Cities police like Pasadena, Los Angeles and even the County sheriffs do their due diligence and get out of their car, get in the street and direct traffic. And for hours on end if need be. If I didn't know better I would think we really don't have a proactive force - such a shame that the public is so desperate it has to take this aspect of policing into its own hands. We are becoming known for our totally avoidable traffic problems.
scott December 16, 2011 at 05:19 PM
Police Chief Joe Payne, the judge disagreed with you and your subordinates. Mayhaps one should look in the mirror from time to time? Maybe, there are more merits than you are giving credit for? Just say'n.
jacksprat December 16, 2011 at 05:34 PM
Finally a citizen standing up and taking responsibility rather than sitting back complaining and waiting for our elected officials to basically their job. Maybe his actions will prompt our elected officials to put on their thinking caps and try to resolve our cities traffic woes. Thank you Mr Ehrlich...(now if you could only convince them to pave some of our deteriorating roads.)
Sgt. Tony Abdalla December 16, 2011 at 07:20 PM
Part One: Mindy B: It is truly unfortunate that you continue to spread false and/or misleading information regarding the police department and this issue. A productive debate based upon accurate information is a healthy thing to have and can many times result in improved ways of doing business. A debate based upon rhetoric and inaccurate information does nothing to improve the process. Here are the facts: The police departments that you reference (i.e. Pasadena, Los Angeles and the LA County Sheriff's Department) do not devote police officers to control traffic at intersections during emergency situations unless it's absolutely critical to do so. The larger municipal cities with more resources have separate departments (e.g. The City of Los Angeles' Department of Transportation) that employee traffic control specialists whose sole function and responsibility is to direct traffic. The intersections in the un-incorporated areas of Los Angeles County (e.g. La Canada, Altadena, etc.) are not the responsibility of the LA County Sheriff's Department. That responsibility falls upon the CA Highway Patrol. Neither the CAHP nor the Pasadena PD has devoted traffic divisions to address intersection outages. Just like us, they rely on resources available and prioritize their response accordingly.
Sgt. Tony Abdalla December 16, 2011 at 07:22 PM
Part Two: The practice of posting stop signs at intersections affected by outages is a common law enforcement best practice during events where demand exceeds available resources, and is in fact supported by related law in the California Vehicle Code. I have spoken with watch commanders from the Pasadena PD, LA County Sheriff’s Department and California Highway Patrol. Each agency did exactly the same thing that the SPPD did during the wind event...Prioritize police officers to respond to emergency calls for service and assign available resources accordingly. None of the agencies had any excess capacity to staff intersections with police officers other than those that were critical to public safety. Those occurrences were very minimal and the duration that those intersections were controlled by police officers was very short. The reality is law enforcement resources are scarce throughout the region and those resources must be prioritized accordingly during any given event. It doesn't mean we wouldn't like to post police officers at every intersection outage; however, doing so would come at the expense of ignoring other potentially life-threatening issues that require a law enforcement response. That is simply a luxury that no law enforcement agency in this region enjoys and doing so would simply be mismanagement and a negligent use of precious resources.
jacksprat December 16, 2011 at 07:39 PM
I'm curious as to why there isn't a reply button to Mr Abdalla's comment. If Mr Abdalla suggests that the city basically can't afford to put an officer at an intersection when needed, than why not train civilians that would be more than happy to do so. I come from a state (New Jersey) where volunteerism in the Police, Fire and AMT are widely accepted.
jacksprat December 16, 2011 at 07:49 PM
I have also lived in this city long enough to know that when any type of incident that involves a police's presence, there are way to many officers at the scene,even if it's a minor incident. Which then suggests to me they have more than enough resources to put an officer at an intersection that requires one. Their job is about serving the community and if that means putting an officer at an intersection that is gridlocked, then it should be required of them.
Barbara Ellis December 17, 2011 at 05:12 AM
What were all the police officers doing at the time? Was there a major incident they had to deal with? Let's have some facts and figures.
Todd Flink December 17, 2011 at 05:35 AM
Ok how about this... take officers off of vice and put them out there to direct traffic. I think they could relax their case load in times of emergency... I don't think the city will be hit by a wave of rouge hookers that will cause total chaos.
marty c December 23, 2011 at 05:36 PM
The fine should have been upheld by the courts - The individual was acting in liu of the signage. If the individual had caused an accident he would have been financially and criminally accountable. In a wide spread emergency - the temporay signs are used when the police are spread too thin to be at every intersection with an outage and their first priority are based on reacting to changing situation.
marty c December 23, 2011 at 05:39 PM
Next time you see a crime in progress and no police around call Alan Ehrlich.
marty c December 23, 2011 at 05:49 PM
You dont sound very thoughtful - there was a major power outage over a large area which included street lights. Who do you pay for your electric? Who repairs? Who should put flag men out when street light repairs are on going? Who was responsible for trees and branches falling - causing power outages and street blockage? Get real.
jacksprat December 24, 2011 at 03:58 AM
Hey Marty, I think the word discombobulated would be the best word to describe your mind set. It's quite obvious based on what you wrote you don't know what you're talking about. This incident did not happen during the wind storm. So next time you decide to chime in do your research first. I have respect for Alan for doing what he did...you on the other hand don't even deserve an honorable mention.

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