When visiting dignitaries speed through San Francisco, chances are Al Casciato is leading the motorcade.
Mr. Casciato, board president of the $11 billion San Francisco City & County Employees' Retirement System, is a 30-year veteran of the San Francisco Police Department. Currently a lieutenant, he joined the traffic motorcycle unit in 1996, and his main job is to escort motorcades that include 25 to 40 motorcycles. "A big part is to orchestrate the routes in advance and plan alternatives (routes) so we keep our visitors safe," Mr. Casciato said.
There was only one worrisome incident under his watch, in 1994 when he also worked in the unit, he recalled. Mikhail Gorbachev, former Soviet president, was in a police escort driving through the city when a drunk stumbled into the motorcade. "It was the only time I left the group," said Mr. Casciato. "I stopped in front of him (the drunk) and blocked him until an officer could take him away. It was a dangerous situation because the drunk could have gotten hit, so we have to be on the lookout for everything."
Mr. Casciato enjoys chatting with the famous visitors, who invariably want pictures with their police escorts. In recent months, he has led motorcades and posed for pictures with Colin Powell, secretary of state; Hu Jintao, vice president of China; and Igor Ivanov, Russian foreign minister. He also has escorted President Clinton and first lady Hillary Clinton, who each thanked him for making their visits pleasant.
He schedules his hours on traffic detail to complement his work with the pension board, noting that his police commanders support his service on the retirement system board, where he is serving a second five-year term.