News

Daughter alleges misconduct in father's arrest

Father was held on suspicion of allowing teen drinking

The daughter of Menlo Park resident William Burnett, an assistant professor at Stanford University, is alleging police misconduct in connection with his arrest on suspicion of allowing teenage drinking at a party at his house in the 1200 block of Woodland Avenue at around 11 p.m. Friday (Nov. 25).

Eliza Burnett, William Burnett's 21-year-old daughter, sent an email to the Almanac with the allegations. Burnett said his daughter was not at home at the time but confirmed the accuracy of her statements.

Eliza Burnett's mother was recovering from back surgery and standing with a metal walker in a room in her house, Eliza Burnett wrote. Also in the room, she said, were officers from the Menlo Park Police Department who, having arrested William Burnett, were handcuffing him as they prepared to take him off to San Mateo County jail.

Also on the premises were more than 40 teenagers celebrating a football victory by Menlo-Atherton High School. Police department spokeswoman Nicole Acker said the police were called in on a report of a "large party with possible underage drinking."

Police found teens "ages 16-17 years old displaying the signs of being under the influence of an alcoholic beverage," Acker said.

Menlo Park Police Chief Bryan Roberts has not yet responded to an interview request.

During the incident, Eliza Burnett said, her mother asked the officers why they were arresting her husband, who had not been read his Miranda rights, according to Eliza. In response, officers handcuffed her mother and "forced" her outside to stand in the night air without her walker, Eliza said.

William Burnett and Eliza, on the advice of an attorney, declined interviews.

William Burnett is an assistant professor of mechanical engineering at Stanford University, the executive director of the university's Institute of Design, and a co-founder and senior fellow at D2M, a Mountain View company that consults on refining a product's design.

In her email, Eliza Burnett describes her younger brother as in tears after witnessing the treatment of his mother and asking officers if he could bring her a chair or her walker. Officers told him to "shut up and get back in line," Burnett wrote. The teens were queued up for interviews in a line that extended outside.

Police arrested William Burnett on suspicion of 44 counts of contributing to the delinquency of minors. But he did not learn of the nature of the allegations against him until the following morning, when his wife and his daughter told him during his release from jail, Eliza wrote.

Police did not witness drinking by the teens, nor did they conduct breathalyzer tests, she wrote.

William Burnett's bail was dropped "due to his spotless record and the baselessness of the charges," Burnett wrote.

In further allegations:

• Police told her mother that they "didn't believe" her responses to their questions and taunted her while she was in handcuffs, calling her "a disgusting parent," Eliza wrote.

• Police refused Burnett's request that jackets and blankets be taken to the teens waiting in line outside to be interviewed. One of the officers allegedly replied: "No, let them freeze. We are teaching these kids a lesson." Eliza wrote.

• Police detained a 22-year-old woman passing by the party during the incident. When the woman denied any involvement, police told her that they "didn't believe her," that she had "probably been coming to bring the kids drugs and alcohol," and she would be arrested on charges of "fleeing the scene" if she left, Eliza wrote.

"On Friday night, the officers of the Menlo Park police squad vastly overstepped the legal limits of their power," Eliza wrote.

"As law enforcement officers, their job in this case was to inform those involved in the incident of the law and of their rights," Burnett continued. "These officers did neither, choosing instead to intimidate minors into answering unlawful questions, abuse a disabled woman, and arrest a man without ever telling him why."

By "unlawful questions," Burnett is referring to her assertion that youth have the right to have a parent or guardian present during questioning by police, and that the police in this case did not afford them that right.

Comments

Posted by Hmmm, a resident of East Palo Alto
on Dec 1, 2011 at 9:41 am

Good. Someone has to challenge the police officers' behavior when it's allegedly unlawful & unnecessarily bullying. If this family's allegations are unfounded, that will come out. This reminds me of the same dept's treatment of the family in EPA when they raided the wrong house. The man of that house, since filing a claim against the Menlo officers, has been harassed by police. Like in so many dept's, Menlo has some bad apples. Perhaps it's time for some composting?


Posted by Tired of irresponsible people not accepting responsibility for their own actions, a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 1, 2011 at 9:55 am

So much to comment on but I'll just address the last couple paragraphs since they pretty much summarize the article of "accusations"

I won't even go into the fact that all these "accusations" are from a 3rd party that was not even present at all during the incident..

QUOTE:
"As law enforcement officers, their job in this case was to inform those involved in the incident of the law and of their rights,"

Sorry but the role of law enforcement is to enforce the law. See who "enforcement" is even in their title making that easy to know, or one would think. Further, knowing your rights is your own responsibility. Law enforcement's role in any situation involving your rights is not violating them. Maybe in a perfect world where time stands still, can officers take the time to educate people of Constitution and the Bill of Rights since they can't remember their schooling on the same subjects.

QUOTE:
Burnett continued. "These officers did neither, choosing instead to intimidate minors into answering unlawful questions, abuse a disabled woman, and arrest a man without ever telling him why."

By "unlawful questions," Burnett is referring to her assertion that youth have the right to have a parent or guardian present during questioning by police, and that the police in this case did not afford them that right.

Great job here by the Almanac to not make any correction that the accuser is showing her ignorance again. First, when she expects law enforcement to not enforce the laws they are there to uphold but instead "inform" and teach people. Now, second, when she believes minors cannot be talked to by the police. The "questioning" assumed here is an interrogation. I've heard no mention of any of the minors being arrested or even taken into custody during this incident. Minors do have a right to a parent/guardian/counsel when being interrogated. In order for one to be interrogated, one must be in custody of law enforcement.

Finally, the last thing I wish to address is ridiculous claim that Burnett, a Stanford Assistant Professor, didn't know why he was arrested and BOOKED into jail. I would hope that a professor or any person with the ability to read would just look at their booking sheet! All charges would be listed on your booking sheet!


Posted by Act Responsibly, a resident of Midtown
on Dec 1, 2011 at 10:00 am

The actions of the police sound disgraceful, however, the parents of the kids involved should be ashamed of their children and themselves. Those parents somehow neglected to teach their kids to be respectful of other people's property, how to be a guest in another person's home, and how to act responsibly. It sounds to me that this family was nice enough to throw a party for the football team and the team let them down. Shame on them.


Posted by Tom, a resident of Fairmeadow
on Dec 1, 2011 at 10:29 am

Did the police confiscate any computers, iPads, or smart phones from the home?


Posted by Fred Davis, a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 1, 2011 at 10:46 am

This story doesn't surprise me at all. Our police force is a bunch of thugs who think they are above the law. They spend their time being heavy handed on small issues, while houses and schools are being looted.
Less time at Starbucks, less time chatting on their cell phones as they drive around and more focus on protecting the community, not punishing them, would be more appropriate.


Posted by Andrea, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Dec 1, 2011 at 10:50 am

Eliza sounds like a kid who got in trouble and now does not want to face the consequences and trying to pass blame on the police.

Grow up.


Posted by Joe, a resident of Menlo Park
on Dec 1, 2011 at 11:01 am

@ "Tired of irresponsible people not accepting responsibility" Please stop living in the past. Have you watched any TV shows filmed since the 60's or read about a certain Supreme Court known as Miranda? Law enforcement's only job is not just enforcing the law BUT also informing any accused of their rights. Have you ever heard "You have the right to remain silent.." or does you knowledge of the law stop with the Bill of Rights? BTW, since the Bill of Rights, slavery has been outlawed, women can vote, etc. probably to your chagrin;)


Posted by Nancy, a resident of Menlo Park
on Dec 1, 2011 at 11:05 am

Please do not lump all police into a group of thugs. I for one am grateful that the police stopped this party. I live in that neighborhood and do not want drunk drivers on my streets. Unfortunately we never know when the police presence stops burglaries in our neighborhood. Or yours, Fred. Please be grateful to these men and women who work 24/7 to make our communities safer. Try standing in their shoes.


Posted by Resident, a resident of Community Center
on Dec 1, 2011 at 11:08 am

A lot of cops have issues with power and control. They aren't mature enough to realize that they would be a lot better off if they saved their macho behavior for dealing with real criminals. I hope the MP police chief and a review board delve in to this issue and use it as an catalyst for improving Menlo Park police. Unfortunately this type of behavior is rampant in most police depts. We really need better psychological testing so we get police recruits who are less macho and more interested in serving the public.


Posted by Raymond Lucas, a resident of East Palo Alto
on Dec 1, 2011 at 11:10 am

Minorities and the poor get this type of treatment from the police EVERYDAY! It's funny that when it happens to someone with money and power they are the first and loudest to cry foul.


Posted by civil libertarian, a resident of Greenmeadow
on Dec 1, 2011 at 11:10 am

"Tired" sounds like he/she is a cop, and a bullying one at that whose power has gone to his/her head.
Police in relatively low crime areas need to spend some time in a jurisdiction with serious crime so that they can gain some perspective.
What next, arresting homeowners whose gardeners make excessive noise with leaf blowers?


Posted by Charlie, a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 1, 2011 at 11:14 am

Sounds like both sides were at fault in this one.


Posted by pat, a resident of Stanford
on Dec 1, 2011 at 11:28 am

This "event" took place on Friday, 11/25, it's now Thursday 12/1. Has anyone seen the breathalizer results? Were these tests performed at the time of arrest? Was there sufficiant evidence (beer cans/bottles/hard liquour in plain view)? Had anyone witnessed this so called "drunken football party"? What about the neighbors? And an "innocent bystander " passing by???? REALLY?
Don't even get me started about the disabled woman and the walker!!!!!


Posted by Josh, a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 1, 2011 at 11:31 am

I have an idea, let's make sure parent's never let their kids have responsible parties where there is a responsible adult present looking out for teens health and making sure they don't drive drunk.

Instead let's make it so the only parties that happen are those where the parents don't know and teens are in danger of binge drinking and drunk driving.

That sounds like a really smart idea to me!


Posted by Banounou, a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Dec 1, 2011 at 11:38 am

What's wrong with few beers to celebrate a football game? Loosen up folks!
[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by Frank, a resident of Ventura
on Dec 1, 2011 at 11:46 am

To Nancy - from this article I surmise that there is very little evidence that much teen age drinking was going on. A neighbor thought there was and the police thought there was but all 44 kids? They didn't brethlize any of them, so was this one, two, 20 40 or all 44?

Consider how would a neighbor know this if they were in the basement? Perhaps a few kids snuck outside to drink a beer - but doesn't this imply that the parents and the other kids would not have approved of drinking inside?

It seems the police let their emotions get carried away and they saw duty to judge and punish. Police are human after all but they are given special privileges and along with that comes the responsibility to not allow their personal feelings to interfere with their duty.

These folks might or might not be bad parents but the police have no business telling them this or inflicting upon them any kind of punishment beyond the minimum necessary to secure the situation. That is the job of the courts / family services after a trial where all the evidence can come out.

This is not the first time our local police have over reacted.


Posted by Walter_E_Wallis, a resident of Midtown
on Dec 1, 2011 at 11:51 am

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

This case demands full opening RIGHT NOW! None of this 'police refuse to comment since the case is still under investigation' crap. I am a firm supporter of the law, just not necessarily of the enforcers.
The refusal to allow the woman her walker or a jacket, and the threats, are uncalled for. Punishment is the duty of judges, not arresting officers. Since there is no evidence of resisting the arrests or inquiries, the police effort was over the top. Openness now.


Posted by Hmmm, a resident of East Palo Alto
on Dec 1, 2011 at 11:53 am

Yeah, Tired's really reaching w/their comments. The thing is,this publication is *reporting* info on the daughter's allegations, and the fact that she's alleged police misconduct. This publication is *not* investigating her assertions or the happening itself.

I wonder how the police actually got into the house - were they invited in by a homeowner who didn't presume that their rights would allegedly soon be violated?

Who called the police & why? Just the lack of parking there would give away a party. Did the police show up sooner to ask them to turn the music down? I was at plenty of parties as a teen in MP & PA where the cops gave us warnings. What about the cops behaving in a manner between not caring about potential drunk drivers & Third Reich tactics?


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 1, 2011 at 11:54 am

Can't believe this story and can't believe the reaction.

We don't really have all the facts. Were there really 40+ intoxicated teenagers at the home? Were they given alcohol by the Burnetts? Was the party rowdy? Who called in the report?

When a similar story happened a few years ago in Palo Alto, it was discovered that the teens that arrived at the party intoxicated and had been drinking elsewhere beforehand. It was also discovered later that more teens (from the rival school) that had not been invited arrived and were not allowed into the house by the responsible adults and they were the ones who called the police out of spite. These were the ones who ran away after the police arrived hoping to see the melee.

I don't think we know the whole story, but from what I have read, I have a great deal of sympathy for parents trying to do the right thing and then getting punished when things turn out to be more difficult than they had planned.

Being the parent of a teenager is hard and even when trying to do the right thing it can snowball. Don't criticize if you don't know the facts.


Posted by Wondering, a resident of Community Center
on Dec 1, 2011 at 11:59 am

"Since there is no evidence of resisting the arrests or inquiries, the police effort was over the top."
But the pepper spraying by UC Davis police that you support on other thread is okay??


Posted by Jared Bernstein, a resident of Professorville
on Dec 1, 2011 at 12:20 pm

Sad story. Sadder still as no-one thinks that it is unbelievable that the MP police would act the way Eliza's letter alleges they did.

If they do this to educated folks, imagine how they behave toward folks without the education to know that this style of arrest is likely illegal (and counterproductive), and may cost the city a fair amount in defense costs.


Posted by Alice Smith, a resident of Green Acres
on Dec 1, 2011 at 12:33 pm

I would suggest any youth involved in this unfortunate event should contact an attorney through their local bar association. In addition, the following may be of use.

The ACLU of Northern California has a complaint line as well, for anyone who believes his or her civil rights have been violated:
Legal assistance by phone:

415-621-2488 (English)
415-293-6356 (español)
1. You can call their civil liberties hotline. Volunteer counselors staff the ACLU civil liberties desk. They are not lawyers but are trained to pre-screen intakes. They cannot give legal advice to you, nor can they refer you to an individual private attorney. They can, however, bring your request to the attention of an attorney for review, or give you an appropriate referral to another agency.

Callers can reach the civil liberties hotline:

Open Monday through Friday
10 a.m. - 12 p.m. and 1 p.m. - 3 p.m.
English: (415) 621-2488
Español: (415) 293-6356
2.

You can write. The ACLU also accepts written letters as intakes. Please do not send documents, and try to limit letters to one page. If we need more information, we will contact you.

The address is:

Intake
ACLU of Northern California
39 Drumm Street
San Francisco, CA 94111

Walk-ins are not seen;

From their website: www.aclunc.org/about/contact_us/index.shtml

see also

Web Link


Posted by To Jared Bernstein, a resident of East Palo Alto
on Dec 1, 2011 at 1:05 pm

Jared - Menlo PD Has gotten in trouble in recent years for heavy-handed tactics w/various folks. Here's a thread that may interest you on a recent case:

Web Link

-Hmmm, E. Palo Alto


Posted by Jack, a resident of Mountain View
on Dec 1, 2011 at 1:07 pm

@Andrea: Read the article carefully. Eliza wasn't at the house at the time, so I doubt she is "a kid who got in trouble and now does not want to face the consequences."


Posted by Anon., a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 1, 2011 at 1:20 pm

This is a tough one, and I'm not sure throwing allegations like this around in the news is helpful.

A house full of intoxicated teenagers would not be easy for police to handle - that's for sure. I know when I was that age there were sympathetic parents who believed it was better for their children to do whatever they were going to do at home rather that be outside driving or getting into mischief ... and they were correct about that if not following the law ... however I don't recall an instance where things got out of control or the police were called either.

The police must have some lattitude in how they handle things, and the stress on them must be considered. I have to think that there was possibly video taken from cell phones so there may well be clear evidence of what was said and done.

The thing that concerns me on the part of police is the feeling that they have the right to judge and punish in the field as the comment - "No, let them freeze. We are teaching these kids a lesson." This is not right, and if it was said seriously and done and was the general feeling and behavior of the Menlo Park Police, then it must change and some discipline needs to be handed down. However, what the police did or did not do does not change what the adults and children did or did not do and I am not sure it is of the magnitude that the whole thing should be tossed out. The police are not judges or prisons, they have no right to inflict discomfort on people, that is a form of torture. They also do not know what medical conditions people could have or what effect their "punishment" might have.

I seem to think back to the cases in some police forces where there are video cameras strapped on the officer's radios and I think that may be a good idea. The bad police, if there are any will not long survive a full audit of their performance in video, and there does seem to be a lot of allegations about police misconduct that could easily be cleared up by video.

It's kind of sad to read the comment right before mine asking those who feel their rights were violated to call the ACLU. Is the ACLU so impotent and irrelevent now that they need to make political prisoners out of kids who partied too much?


Posted by Anon., a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 1, 2011 at 1:23 pm

What do you know, this is the first time I think I agree with Walter Wallis ... good comment Walter.

>> Punishment is the duty of judges, not arresting officers. Since there is no evidence of resisting the arrests or inquiries, the police effort was over the top. Openness now.


Posted by David Pepperdine, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 1, 2011 at 1:31 pm

He should not have served alcohol to minors. That's unlawful.

So much easier to point the finger in another direction.


Posted by cut everyone some slack, a resident of Midtown
on Dec 1, 2011 at 1:36 pm

What about the rights of others in the neigborhood. Sounds like the police responded to a complaint. That they broke up a party with lots of underage children under the influence even if they were not drinking on site. The police took long enough to process the kids that most likely they were safe to get home when released. Sounds like no one got permanent marks on their records (useful since most of these kids want to go to college). Not allowing the hostess of this out of control party access to her walker sounds like some of the police need some additional training. But the final outcome is that a lot of drinking children got home safely.


Posted by Tom Upton, a resident of Menlo Park
on Dec 1, 2011 at 1:47 pm

This is a perfect storm of events. I know the Burnetts well. I can not say enough about their kids and their compassion as parents. I also know they are not irresponsible, rude or "disgusting parents". It has also been my experience that the Menlo Park police have been great when I have had adventures with nasty gas station owners on Willow road.

Nevertheless, this could happen to you. Hypothetically, let's just say... Your son asks to have a few friends over, the high school just won the Football Game, it is OK. Just be careful and wise, you say. (What do you tell your children (whom now are suddenly 17) about drinking? How do you want YOUR kids to learn about sex? Hmmm???) OK so some kids are coming over. They now all have smartphones, and when one kid texts a friend as to where they are going, most likely 12 more know instantly. Those 12 know/tell 12 more. Also, just for reference, teenagers now drink beer, check yours for the ID/friend-who-has-one they use to buy beer. If you think they don't have one, then get your head out of the sand. So, The party gets wide notice on FB, chat, and message apps, kids stop to buy get beer and arrive. Someone who lives adjacent gets put out by the noise, appearance, suspicion, not-in-my-back-yard feelings and etc.and quickdials 911 on her/his smartphone. Cops show up to an event well underway and well populated.

On Saturday in Menlo Park what happened it is easy to understand. The police panicked because it is a bigger job than expected. So they get to work doing a really stinky job of enforcement. Panic gives way to stern rote tactics at the expense of professionalism and comportment. Somewhere there was a breakdown in protocol. Otherwise how do you explain the behavior way out of proportion to the scene? Or, amazingly, No Miranda? Things go down hill for all involved and the apparent relish with which city representatives corralled bullied and admittedly punished people will ultimately cost the City of Menlo Park dearly in time, energy, money and credibility. Soon we will shall just out how many of these "punished" kids have litigators as parents. Too bad there will be no funds to update and modernize the socialization training police "people". Everybody loses.
~TEU


Posted by double standard?, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Dec 1, 2011 at 2:05 pm

Seems to me that these parents were not treated fairly by the police. Or is it a big difference between Menlo Park and Palo Alto?!

Witness the party for "insiders" in Palo Alto a few yrs ago - hosted by a Palo Alto teacher and her husband, where there were numerous drunken teens - and they were NOT charged with anything? The party was broken up. That's it. All the cool ppl were there.

I am sick and tired of double standards like this.


Posted by Suzanne Wilson, a resident of Menlo Park
on Dec 1, 2011 at 2:13 pm

We have known this family since we were in college together. All of them, parents and children, are kind, generous, thoughtful, reliable, and involved. If you have a problem, they will do what they can to help. If you have something great happen, they will celebrate with you. They have deep ties to this community, and right now there is a very long and very dedicated line of friends ready to support and defend them.

There was no honor in the choices that the officers made, and the actions they took make community policing in Menlo Park very difficult. As a resident of Menlo Park and friend of the Burnetts, I am very disheartened by this incident. There are many fine and dedicated police officers in Menlo Park whose jobs just got harder thanks to the poor judgment of their colleagues.


Posted by hey eeast, a resident of Greater Miranda
on Dec 1, 2011 at 2:34 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by John Doe, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 1, 2011 at 2:55 pm

Menlo Park PD is a disgrace. The officers acted against the law. It's the policemen who need to be arrested and put into jail. Officers who violate the law should not be tolerated and unlawful police actions should not be condoned.

Having seen how Oakland and Menlo Park police officers acted in an UNLAWFUL manner in the recent events, I do not want to live in the bay area anymore. I do not feel safe with the police force around. The police themselves have become a threat to the society.


Posted by Amy Feinstein, a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 1, 2011 at 2:58 pm

[Post removed due to same poster using multiple names]


Posted by Member, a resident of Menlo Park
on Dec 1, 2011 at 4:16 pm

I have been living for just 2 years in Menlo Park (Linfield Oaks) and the least I can say is that it is impossible to have any respect for the police. In all my encounters with officers I experienced bulliness, arrogance and a lack of basic common sense (nice way of saying their IQ is definitely on the low side). What makes me angry is the fact that our taxes is going to these overpaid (their salaries is in the 6 digits) incompetent officers.
I hope the city is going to get sued and some officers get fired. They obviously deserve it.


Posted by Teen-Parties-Lead-To-Adult-Arrests, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 1, 2011 at 5:36 pm

> Police found teens "ages 16-17 years old displaying the
> signs of being under the influence of an alcoholic beverage,"
> Acker said.

What about some facts? Is there a police report? What about open bottles of "hootch"? Beer? Wine? Whiskey? Brandy? Single Malts?

And what happens if these kids got tanked elsewhere, and came over to this guy's house to work off their "Buzz"?

Did the police actually determine the alcohol level of each youth? Any field sobriety tests? Any blood tests? Or can you be arrested in Menlo Park based on an Officer's "belief" that someone's kid is drunk on your property?

The moral of the story is to "never let a teenager in your home".


Posted by Hmmm, a resident of East Palo Alto
on Dec 1, 2011 at 6:48 pm

Teen Parties - the end of your post made me laugh out loud! Teens indeed bring chaos. On the serious side, you raised some good points. I'm still curious how the police were able to enter the Burnett home.

This happened to me some years ago in Palo Alto:

I was caring for kids while the parents were traveling. I was in college & the kids ranged from grade school to high school. One Friday, I get to the house after my part time job to find a RAGER of a party. I about aged 15 years. Drunk kids, music, food & beer all over the place - just chaos, it was awful. Luckily the house was set back from the street & well insulated so it wasn't too obvious what was going on. I gathered my wits & called some friends to come help. I don't recall all of the details, but several older Stanford friends arrived & helped me w/the kids.

Then, the police show up. All the kids hid & quieted down. An undercover officer, very youthful looking, tried to force his way into the house. I say force because he literally put his foot in the door & stood there arguing w/me. I knew that I could get busted for delinquency to minors when I had done nothing wrong. He was pretending that he was invited to the party. I told him there was no party, just myself & some friends of legal age playing music - which was true. We had a standoff until he finally gave up & left.

We made the kids empty their wallets, called a bunch of cabs to take them home & my friends took a bunch of kids home, too. I made the core group of best friends of the teens stay overnight - & they set everything to right in the house cleaning up.

When the parents came home, I had a chat w/their well-known, super accomplished, monied, down to earth dad before the neighbors could get to him.

I've never forgotten that super aggressive cop w/the attitude that he had a right to enter the house, but I faced him down.


Posted by Becky, a resident of Menlo Park
on Dec 1, 2011 at 6:55 pm

Wow - - Eliza, who was not even at the party is sticking up for her dad, who was in fact at the party and is an assistant professor at Stanford ( at this rate, based on his decision making, will remain an assistant for some time to come). Let's see Eliza's mom was recovering from back surgery (poor thing ' do you hear the violins) but has no problem hosting a party for a bunch of underage kids...and the poor younger brother (also under age) was in tears for his hobbling mother. Hey bro ' it's your friends that caused this problem in the first place. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.] When someone calls the police about possible underage drinking, it's because there is underage drinking. The drinking age is 21 .. not 18, not 16 - William (come on Bill) broke the law. He involved his wife (remember her, poor thing) and the younger brother and all his buddies. The fun lasted for a while as the underage kids broke the law with help from Bill; and then the police came - fun over. Remember, the parents condone this - maybe now they are suggesting an Occupy M-A to show support and practice freedom of speech. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by HawkeyePierce, a resident of Stanford
on Dec 1, 2011 at 7:23 pm

Wow, Becky - bitter much?


Posted by Becky, a resident of Menlo Park
on Dec 1, 2011 at 7:38 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by S, a resident of Menlo Park
on Dec 1, 2011 at 7:39 pm

Hey Becky, I'm one of those buddies and you have no right to talk you have not heard the full story. Everything stated by Eliza is correct I was there I think I would know. This was handled ridiculously and unfair there was a party two weeks ago in Atherton, the police came and they just let everyone go and the parents who were there didn't get in ANY trouble.


Posted by Jimbo, a resident of Menlo Park
on Dec 1, 2011 at 7:50 pm

[Post removed due to same poster using multiple names]


Posted by Justice, a resident of Menlo Park
on Dec 1, 2011 at 7:54 pm

[Post removed due to same poster using multiple names]


Posted by S, a resident of Menlo Park
on Dec 1, 2011 at 7:57 pm

I probably do the least about of partying out of all the students I know. Just because I go to parties does not mean I drink. No I don't have a fake ID why would I? You probably drank when you were a teenager and you are not perfect you've broken the law as well i'm sure. Yes the parents were home and no I was not crying but you would have been to if that was your mother and no I was not drinking, not everyone there was drunk. Oh and the majority of our parents knew where we were that night.
Why do you people feel the right to assume everything?


Posted by come on, a resident of Stanford
on Dec 1, 2011 at 8:18 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by K, a resident of Menlo Park
on Dec 1, 2011 at 8:23 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by R, a resident of Menlo Park
on Dec 1, 2011 at 8:25 pm

Regardless of the laws broken by the children at the party and the parents hosting it, law enforcement should not be condoning poor and unfair behavior-- which is exactly what they did by mistreating both the parents and the teens. It is not an officer's job to "teach kids a lesson" by keeping them in the cold to freeze or forcing them to answer questions without their parents present. Despite the consequences of enabling your child to have friends over for a party, officers should exemplify higher authority and justice, not immaturity and misconduct similar to that of the teens. It is expected for citizens to break the law every once in a while-- not that it is okay. However, it is not expected or respectable for a policeman to act just as poorly as the accused.


Posted by Jimbo, a resident of Menlo Park
on Dec 1, 2011 at 8:26 pm

[Post removed due to same poster using multiple names]


Posted by Tammy, a resident of Atherton
on Dec 1, 2011 at 8:28 pm

[Post removed due to same poster using multiple names]


Posted by matt, a resident of Menlo Park
on Dec 1, 2011 at 8:31 pm

As a member of the party I can tell you, if you were a neighbor you would hear no music, chaos, or any signs of underage drinking. The police most likely saw a few teens leave the house and walk to the long lines of cars where the police then probably assumed there was a party and they could entertain themselves for the evening. They then walked in without anyones consent and interrogated each teen and surrounded the house with at least 5 officers like Bin Laden was inside.


Posted by :(, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 1, 2011 at 8:31 pm

jimbo. reality check, did you never do anything illegal as a teenager?


Posted by S, a resident of Menlo Park
on Dec 1, 2011 at 8:34 pm

how is that entering a very slippery slope?


Posted by Friend, a resident of Menlo Park
on Dec 1, 2011 at 8:35 pm

[Post removed due to same poster using multiple names]


Posted by Jimbo, a resident of Menlo Park
on Dec 1, 2011 at 8:37 pm

[Post removed due to same poster using multiple names]


Posted by R, a resident of Menlo Park
on Dec 1, 2011 at 8:38 pm

You're right, Friend...and that makes the police force's unlawful actions and treatment of those kids and parents okay!! Not.


Posted by Jimbo, a resident of Menlo Park
on Dec 1, 2011 at 8:40 pm

[Post removed due to same poster using multiple names]


Posted by Friend, a resident of Menlo Park
on Dec 1, 2011 at 8:42 pm

[Post removed due to same poster using multiple names]


Posted by S, a resident of Menlo Park
on Dec 1, 2011 at 8:42 pm

Hey Jimbo you never answered my question


Posted by some guy, a resident of another community
on Dec 1, 2011 at 8:44 pm

It's illegal to drink under 21, and it's illegal to allow underage drinking at your home. There are no special deals just for *you*. It's the same for everyone.


Posted by NoBama, a resident of Menlo Park
on Dec 1, 2011 at 8:46 pm

Hey everyone- chill. a little fun at a party with no driving involved never hurt anyone. you guys are taking this way too far... menlo park police and its loser residents at work again. Solution: throw a city wide rager and haze the people supporting the actions of the police.


Posted by D, a resident of Nixon School
on Dec 1, 2011 at 8:53 pm

whether the account is correct and the police acted rightly or not, bottom line: atherton and menlo park police exaggerate situations and often assume much more than they should


Posted by F, a resident of Atherton
on Dec 1, 2011 at 9:00 pm

[Post removed due to same poster using multiple names]


Posted by ciao, a resident of East Palo Alto
on Dec 1, 2011 at 9:02 pm

Lets make sure we all know that there must be a lot more to the story than what is said in this article. No one can judge this family or the teens who participated. You really can't fully understand the dynamics of it all. So whats the point in arguing if no one has all of the facts, only the ones who have at least met these people would understand the situation better. Someone earlier said that " It's funny that when it happens to someone with money and power they are the first and loudest to cry foul." well yes the people who are very poor are treated more as minorities unfortunately, and dont feel it to be a wise idea to fight against the police. People with money on the other hand are more of a threat to the police. Right now that is how society works, and its sad! just as sad as the fact that police officers also abuse thier power.. Someone else also said "Shame on them" referring to the parents and teens, thats extremely rude and unnecessary to say. Like I stated before, no one should judge, its foolish and immature. I understand laws were broken, but good people break the law sometimes woopdiedooo there are worse things in the world. At least we know no one was hurt that night and that there were no signs of dangerous actions (driving drunk). I would say that I am at least proud of these teens who can be responsible "partiers." and those who argue against this more: live a little.


Posted by seriously, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 1, 2011 at 9:02 pm

jimbo, for such a "wise" man your maturity level is so low. Save the condescending remarks for your next book club meeting gramps.


Posted by **, a resident of Los Altos Hills
on Dec 1, 2011 at 9:10 pm

Unless you were at the party you can in no way make assumptions as to the police officers behavior nor can you assume the extent at which the teenagers were "breaking the law". With that said, it is far better that this party was held under adult supervision because, as I am sure many of you know through experience, high school parties are often held at households where parents are absent. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by C, a resident of Menlo Park
on Dec 1, 2011 at 9:26 pm

As a member of the party, I can say with great confidence that officers overstepped their boundaries as supposed protectors of the public by unlawfully detaining two parents I have great respect for, one of whom was disabled. Eliza's description of the account is very accurate, not to mention the officers refused to let anyone go to the restroom, regardless of how badly they had to go. Jimbo, clearly you are a saint that has never broken any law in all of your life and my be perfect in every way. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by Come on guys, a resident of Atherton
on Dec 1, 2011 at 9:30 pm

Hey party goers,
If I were you, I'd shut up. Your accusations and opinions are doing nothing but digging a bigger hole for Mr. Burnett to climb out of. You're making everyone who attended that party look like an idiot teens that can't construct a basic argument.
I know you have the best intentions for your friend's father, but your words are doing more to hurt than help. S, you just said that not everyone was drunk, implying that there was underage drinking. Be smart. Stop talking.


Posted by ciao, a resident of East Palo Alto
on Dec 1, 2011 at 10:23 pm

"Come on guys" I understand your point, but like you said, they are teenagers. Their argument may not be written very professionally thats very true, but I do not think that means they are stupid. None of them are accusing, they are only speaking to defend themselves. I dont see anyone hiding the fact that there was underage drinking, so someone saying that not everyone was drunk is only for more defense; proving that this party was not a crazy event that was too out of control.


Posted by tired of the BS, a resident of East Palo Alto
on Dec 1, 2011 at 11:04 pm

I love that there are street corner lawyers in more affluent areas too. All this spouting off about rights, unlawful detentions and what the police should have and shouldn't have done. In my time in the hood, this is what I have learned.

- The police do not have to read you your Miranda Rights when they arrest you like they do on TV. That is television, not real life.

- Minors - Minors have rights like adults, one of them is not to have their parents present when questioned by the police. This would not apply in this situation, since it doesn't sound like any of the kids where arrested.

- If the police are investigating a crime (underage drinking is a crime)and they think you are involved, they can detain you. If you do not cooperate, they can handcuff you.

I wonder if there would be this much public outcry if it had happened in East Menlo?


Posted by Clarabelle, a resident of Midtown
on Dec 1, 2011 at 11:17 pm

Both articles appear to be information deficient. For example, was there evidence of drinking? Were sobriety tests administered to the teenagers? Did the police simply stop because they were on patrol, or were they responding to a complaint or multiple complaints (surely if it was a noisy party many neighbors would have complained.)? If there was a complaint, was it for noise, alcohol consumption, or a large gathering of teenagers? Even a group of five teenagers can be intimidating and cause for consternation, let alone a much larger group. Is it true this party had been planned well in advance (supposedly it was an annual event and non-alcoholic in nature), and neighbors had been informed in advance (something good neighbors do even when having a simple dinner party that will involve parking in front of other homes on the neighborhood street) and were thus prepared for one evening of inconvenience? If the newspaper is accurate and Mr. Burnett is being charged with 44 counts of providing alcohol to minors, where is the evidence? The whole affair seems vastly overblown in the absence of facts.


Posted by Justice, a resident of Menlo Park
on Dec 1, 2011 at 11:29 pm

Amen "tired of the BS" you got it right on.


Posted by JohnJR, a resident of Menlo Park
on Dec 2, 2011 at 1:20 am

*Tired of the BS* said it best... have a little knowledge before you spout off stuff you learned on TV.. Good to see somebody on here has some sense.

Also..to the TEENS that were at the party making childish comments on here... come back in 10 years after you've hopefully learned something adulthood... maybe had a child or two...just ask your mommy or daddy..see what they're standpoint on this is...


Posted by M, a resident of Menlo Park
on Dec 2, 2011 at 2:26 am

JohnJR, I don't really see why you think you can criticize the teenagers since they were the ones at the party and therefore they have a firsthand account of the horrible abuse of power by the police. Also, to all you people who are judging the family, especially the parents, you don't even know them so you have no right to chastise them. I'm sure that the Burnetts are good people who are not perfect but certainly do not deserve the treatment that they received from the police or any of the unnecessarily harsh comments on here from ignorant people. It's the teenagers who actually know the family so they are the ones that you all should be listening to instead of writing off their comments as childish.

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by Anonym, a resident of Monroe Park
on Dec 2, 2011 at 8:13 am

I hope the teenagers - with the full support of their parents - come forward and help find some truth in case. They all showed up for the party and good times at Mr. Burnett's home then caused some sort of disturbance which attracted the attention of the police. Now they should be facing up to the consequences and not letting Mr. Burnett be their fall guy. If there was police misconduct, then their testimony will be crucial to helping Mr. Burnett plea his defense. I would not invite a single one of them to my home. Toxic guests.


Posted by Anonymous, a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Dec 2, 2011 at 8:43 am

It is only fair to publish the names of the officers involved. Let justice take its course instead of letting them hide behind the badge while siphoning tax payers' money.

It is time to "POLICE the Police". Isn't it interesting there are many police officers out there with past records, and they suddenly get closed or they no longer have new records after they joined the brotherhood? It is not that they suddenly all became law-abiding. More likely, they are not reported to maintain the brotherhood.


Posted by Walter_E_Wallis, a resident of Midtown
on Dec 2, 2011 at 8:53 am

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

Wondering, the difference between this case and Davis is that in Menlo there was apparently full cooperation even with the unreasonable orders of the police while at Davis there was total non-cooperation. There are obligations on both sides in a law officer confrontation.
I believe the story mentioned that no field sobriety tests were given, which renders the drinking accusation moot; and denial of chairs or walkers and bathrooms was uncalled for since everyone was cooperating.
I want a police response now,not 6 months from now couched in legalese.


Posted by Steve C, a resident of Menlo Park
on Dec 2, 2011 at 9:17 am

All the more reason to institute very thorough psychological examinations of all prospective police officers, done by a completely independent agency. This profession obviously attracts really screwed up people who thrive on using and abusing power. Witness the idiots macing and flash-bombing students and protestors. And of course, the places that need to do this the most are campus police departments, the haven for those who cannot pass the limited screening that municipal police agencies already institute. However, the silver lining is that it does make everyone wonder what happens to those who do not have the resources to challenge these departments. I would submit the corrections system is full of those folks.


Posted by Party Goer , a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Dec 2, 2011 at 9:18 am

I was a student at this party and I can say that I was completely sober. One officer in particular was far to rude for my taste. After insisting each of us call a parent to pick us up, they did in fact ask unlawful questions. When I said I was completely sober, the officer immediately began yelling at me, telling me I was lying (I was not). However no sobriety test was taken to prove me right. When my mother came to pick me up, as requested by the officers, I was told by two that I could go to her. After standing and walking to her I was yelled at for leaving the line and told to sit back down. Once I had permission from the rudest officer to return to my mother, he not only yelled at me, but at my mother also. My mother in no way was taking part in these events, however, the officer was extremely rude to her as if she was hosting it herself.


Posted by Too high a risk, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 2, 2011 at 9:28 am

We adults take on enormous risk when we host parties for teens and assume we've removed that risk simply by "taking away their keys".

For the young people: taking away the keys can't prevent the much more common fallout of underage drinking (or misuse of alcohol at any age) - violence, injury, date rape/unintended sexual encounters or potential alcohol poisoning. The notion that we can control the situation and guarantee a safe outcome for all is mistaken.

It's also a risk and false assumption that most parents would be okay with our decision to allow their child to drink at our house. Whoa...

Thank goodness there were no tragedies - but with a group that large and a creek nearby, cars should not have been the only concern.

Law enforcement has the horrible task of witnessing and attending to the aftermath of all of the above and, while not defending the behavior that's being claimed in this case, it makes sense to me that law enforcement would be very serious when they happen upon a large party with underage drinking. They have the responsibility to enforce the law AND keep it a safe situation. It's a pretty sure bet that the scene is going to be intense.

Keeping students together and having "five officers" surrounding the house (as claimed) sounds like safe party dispersal training - to prevent party-goers from scattering and potential tragedies from DUI. (Officers have no way of knowing who has keys).

The story of the Burnett's, while hard to know what is fact or fiction, is a cautionary tale of risk and false notions.

Legal issues, financial hit, media spectacle, potential civil suits, fallout to one's social and professional reputation...even if tragedies were avoided, the other risks are real and way too high.


Posted by No fun, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 2, 2011 at 10:07 am

Why would anyone host a party for their High School kids after hearing this story? Too much risk. It's very sad for the kids. We have a lot to learn from our parents who were much more tolerant.


Posted by the_punnisher, a resident of Mountain View
on Dec 2, 2011 at 12:35 pm

the_punnisher is a registered user.

Who does the MPs from MP think they are, members of the Denver PD?

( Denver is shelling out $MILLIONS in poLICE brutality and unlawful arrest and detainment FOR THIS YEAR ALONE )

Independent Psych tests are necessary, with a no UNION APPEAL clause put in place!

Like LAWYERS, the 99% of the LEOs make the good ones look bad.

The SFBA was a good place to live in before the WOD and SWAT teams moved in....


Posted by Walter_E_Wallis, a resident of Midtown
on Dec 2, 2011 at 1:51 pm

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

No response yet? Hiding behind "policy"? When you have a gun you don't have to shout. When you do shout other than to be heard, you are out of line. You claim everybody was drunk and yet no Breathalyzer tests? What a bunch of maroons!


Posted by Wondering, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 2, 2011 at 2:43 pm

So can cops legally walk into a home without receiving consent from a resident/owner? Was it legal to enter without consent because they *suspected* there was underage drinking in the house?


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 2, 2011 at 2:52 pm

As a parent of teens, I have often had a group of teens here (but nowhere near 44). I am usually here and provide food while they play video games or hang out. They sometimes are noisy, but generally well behaved and respectful.

It seems perhaps that I should not have teens here. It seems that someone might think there was alcohol and call me in. I never brethalyse the kids who come here and I would never let them drink here. But someone might think I was and I might get arrested.

Perhaps my teens shouldn't have any friends here and I shouldn't let them go to friends houses or anywhere else.

At least that is what I am reading from all this.


Posted by Observer, a resident of South of Midtown
on Dec 3, 2011 at 10:28 pm

This is very unfortunate for all concerned. It's very hard to tell, from the differing accounts, what might have actually happened. I hope the truth comes out and who ever is at fault here is held accountable, whether it is the police, the parents, the partygoers, or a combination. I have to say I recently had an encounter with the MP police in which they were nothing but helpful, reasonable, and did exactly what any citizen would hope. If the police were at fault here, it must have been a few bad apples.


Posted by Walter_E_Wallis, a resident of Midtown
on Dec 4, 2011 at 6:23 am

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

I would like to hear the officer's response unfiltered by attorneys.


Posted by fafa, a resident of East Palo Alto
on Dec 4, 2011 at 12:24 pm

she's just shamed that her dad was arrested. Sorry kid, that the cops didn't have gold handcuffs for your dad to wear!


Posted by Walter_E_Wallis, a resident of Midtown
on Dec 4, 2011 at 6:23 pm

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

Her comment was scarcely an indication of shame. It was exasperation at the lack of due process.


Posted by Anonymous, a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Dec 5, 2011 at 1:45 pm

It is only fair to publish the names of the Officers involved. There is nothing to hide if you're telling the truth, right?

It seems so typical to hide behind the badge and being the ones abusing the law. If the UC Davis case was not on Video, I bet we'll still be hearing, "the case is under investigation and there is no comment at this time."


Posted by daniel, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Dec 6, 2011 at 6:57 am

The conduct of police all over the country has become indistinguishable from that of police in fascist countries. Savagely beating up and pepper-spraying peaceful demonstrators, using excessive force against civilians, using brutality during arrests, rudeness toward the public, etc. Too many cops could just as easily be criminals if they hadn't become cops. We need police, but we don't need criminals wearing uniforms.


Posted by mkk, a resident of Menlo Park
on Dec 7, 2011 at 6:23 am

This reminds me of a favorite quote of Bart Simpson: This is everybody's fault but mine.

If you are responsibly supervising minors drinking, there won't be enough commotion to cause the neighbors to call the police.

Maybe it is your opinion that minors should be given access to alcohol, but do you feel you have the right to extend that opinion to dozens of other people's children?

You didn't know they were drinking? That's just lame.


Posted by Alexander, a resident of Menlo Park
on Dec 8, 2011 at 3:21 pm

Arresting officer Ed Soares with photograph.

Web Link


Posted by Look at yourself, a resident of Menlo Park
on Dec 13, 2011 at 4:23 pm

Anyone who thinks that parents can absolutely ensure there is no alcohol or drugs at a teen party is kidding themselves. I can tell you from personal experience that when the kids drink at a party, they do it where you can't see it happening. I can also assure you that cars are parked on your street, music gets turned up loud, and kids who you have never seen end up in your yard and on your street. Maybe you have to do this once and you will learn exactly how this works. The problem is your assumption is that your kid is a good kid, and all the friends are innocent. Once the party starts, you eventually figure out that it's not so easy to police the situation. Your instinct as a good parent is both to give the kids some space by keeping out of the way, and monitor for poor behavior. I assure you, however, that it's not so obvious or easy the first time you throw a teen party and things can get out of hand. For me, this event speaks very poorly of the Menlo Park Police. In this case, the phrase "no good deed goes unpunished" comes to mind. You can't punish innocent people for things they haven't yet learned and have no control over. When we pass laws removing alcohol commercials from television and begin to show some understanding of how difficult it is to be a teen parent, maybe I will change my mind. For now, I would like to hear how the fine officers of the Menlo Police Department are raising their kids.


Posted by Anonymous, a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Dec 16, 2011 at 12:53 am

Excellent detective work, Alexander!

So, looks like Officer Soares has moved up from East Palo Alto to Menlo Park. But, wait! He was a detective before and now, he's doing beats??

And all those tattoos on an officer? Now, we know better, don't we?





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