San Jose Police Officer Michael J. Katherman, 34, lost his life in the line of duty while patrolling Tuesday afternoon on North 10th Street.
Of all of the high risk ways a cop can lose his life, Katherman was killed in a stupidly preventable automobile collision. From the media descriptions, it sounds like a classic SMIDSY (for “Sorry Mate, I Didn’t See You”). Katherman was in full uniform, riding his police motorcycle northbound on 10th Street when the unidentified driver of a southbound minivan turned left directly into Katherman. The Google Streetview for the southbound minivan driver shows a sightline that’s at least a half mile long. The weather was sunny, and the sun was high in the sky to the minivan driver’s right.
Perhaps a little ironically, Katherman was a member of the woefully understaffed Traffic Enforcement Unit. Regular patrol officers in San Jose normally do no traffic enforcement, leaving the job to the eleven motorcycle officers like Katherman who must patrol 2400 miles of surface streets in a city of one million people covering 180 square miles. The San Jose Police Department say they have committed themselves to the city’s Vision Zero policy, but they don’t have the funding and staffing needed for effective enforcement. I think we’re up to around 20 traffic fatalities for the city of San Jose for 2016, compared to 22 homicides so far this year.
Increasing the city budget for police and traffic safety was on the the agenda last night when the City Council meeting was abruptly stopped during the public comment section after Mayor Sam Liccardo received word of Officer Katherman’s collision.
The one-way couplet of 10th and 11th Streets just south of this intersection is an important north-south route for people riding bicycles. While most people turn off to nearby Oakland Road to cross Highway 101 and avoid the mess where 10th intersects with I-880, a significant number of people need to ride on 10th to get to Zanker via Old Bayshore Highway. Besides the lousy pavement conditions in this industrial area, regular riders know to expect aggressive driving on all of the roads in this vicinity.
Katherman leaves behind his wife and two children. With my sincere condolences to the family and friends of Michael Katherman, as well as to the members of the law enforcement community.
Update: Officer Katherman was the city of San Jose’s 19th traffic fatality for 2016. The link also has information for those who would like to contribute to a memorial fund.