The San Mateo Police Department Master Officer Program identifies an elite group of officers within our department who have earned the title “Master Officer” based not only on their yearly performance evaluations, but also on their years of experience and various expertise.  SMPD is lucky to recognize our largest number of Master Officers ever in 2016, each of whom will be submitting a personal article on a topic of their choice, allowing our community the rare chance of getting to know the people behind the SMPD badge…


by SMPD Master Officer Nick Ryan

My name is Nick Ryan and I’ve been a Police Officer with the San Mateo Police Department for nearly 8 years.  More importantly, I’m actually one of several 2nd generation San Mateo Police Officers in our department, a true testament to the legacy of SMPD.  I am currently assigned to the Investigations Bureau as a Detective and I am also a member of our SWAT team.  Prior to these assignments I worked patrol for several years and during that time, I had a chance to do a variety of different things, one of them being traffic enforcement. My job was to help ensure that our streets and our pedestrians were safe.

As adults we all know how important it is to be vigilant and use a designated crosswalk when we cross the street in business districts and in thoroughfares.  Obviously our kids, being young and free spirited are not always so conscientious or thoughtful when it comes to getting safely from one side of the road to the other.  How do we get our kids to look both ways, check for cars, and use the crosswalk?

Starting young is important.  Just like anything else we teach our children, the earlier it begins, the easier it is to become ingrained.  From the time my kids were old enough to walk, our family would take walks around the neighborhood and we worked with our son on making sure he stopped every time he reached the end of the sidewalk.  Sometimes a game such as “freeze” was helpful; of course we would be in front of him to make sure he actually stopped when we got to the intersection.

Now tha he is 4 years old, we put the responsibility on him, so he feels a little more grown up.  We have him check for cars and say whether or not he sees any.  Once he gives us the “all clear”, if it is actually clear, we cross.  He is only 4 and he is consistently able to determine whether or not it is safe to cross the street.  But, this is still too young to cross the street alone and his mom and I still enjoy chances like this to hold his hand…at least before he’s “too old” and cool to do so.

Additionally, while it is always important to emphasize the importance of crossing in a designated crosswalk and having the knowledge that the pedestrian has the right-of-way, it is probably more important to recognize and emphasize to our children that just because they have the right-of-way in a crosswalk does not mean that cars will stop.

Some of the most common serious vehicle accidents are auto vs. pedestrian collisions, which can often result in serious injuries.  As police officers, we are aware that a common cause for these accidents are drivers violating the pedestrian’s right-of-way.

In my experience while working as a patrol officer, I have witnessed many of these violations and have responded to several accident scenes.  In addition, I often witness pedestrians who, because they have the right-of-way, pay little or no attention to oncoming traffic.  Unfortunately, there is an inherent need to be alert at all times. In the end, just because you are crossing on a walk signal and/or are crossing in a designated crosswalk does not guarantee your safety from oncoming traffic.

It is important for us to teach are children that they are responsible for their own safety and not only should they cross the street in the appropriate locations, but most importantly they should remain vigilant and not take for granted that cars will stop for them just because they have the right-of-way.

Teaching our kids crosswalk safety is just one of the many lessons we must give our kids and most likely one they will pass it on to their kids as well. So, start early and keep it up.  Their safety depends on it because much like life, we won’t always be there to show them the way…


Detective Nick Ryan is an 8 year veteran of the San Mateo Police Department.  He is currently a member of the Investigations Bureau and assigned to S.W.A.T. as part of the containment unit. He is also a lifelong Peninsula resident, a competitive motocross rider, and proud Serra High School Alumni.


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