A Palo Alto police officer faced disciplinary action after he swore at a pedestrian at a crosswalk, refused to disclose his name and proceeded to run several stop signs, according to a report from the city's independent police auditor.
The biannual report, which the city released Wednesday afternoon, covers the first half of 2013 and describes an episode in which an officer engaged in a profane exchange with a man and a woman at an intersection. The officer, who was reportedly on his way to investigate a report of an assault, stopped his patrol car "several feet into the intersection," which a man and woman were preparing to cross. The man raised his arms in a "what the heck" motion and said something to the officer about the crosswalk, according to the auditor, who reviewed the audio recording of the incident.
"The officer's shouted reply is obviously discourteous and includes the use of profanity," the report from auditor Michael Gennaco states.
The pedestrian then allegedly asked the officer for his name, after which time the officer drove away.
The man involved in the exchange called the police station to complain about a "rude officer," the report states. Later, the officer himself called his sergeant to notify him that a complaint might be forthcoming.
To make matters worse, a video recording inside the patrol car showed the officer "failing to stop at two signs and violating the right-of-way of other cars by making a left turn," according to the auditor's report.
During the department's internal investigation, the officer "admitted to the allegations of discourtesy and profanity" that were captured in the recording and admitted that he was "driving unsafely with his emergency equipment activated."
"He said he immediately reported the encounter with a man and woman to his supervisors because he realized he had made a mistake and wanted to inform his supervisors as soon as possible," the report stated. "The officer said that he would not repeat such actions in the future."
In its internal review, the police department found that the officer had "violated policy regarding rude and discourteous treatment, had engaged in conduct unbecoming an officer, and had violated policy by engaging in unsafe or improper driving."
"As a result of the findings, the allegations were sustained and the Department took corrective action in keeping with its disciplinary protocols," Gennaco's report stated.
The auditor agreed with the department's repose, though he had one quibble with the protocol. Before interviewing the officer, the department allowed him to view the recordings that captured the vehicle. This, according to the audit, "obviously had the potential to influence the recollection and statements of the auditor." Gennaco recommends that in the future officers who are subjects of complaints "not be afforded the opportunity to review audio and video recordings of the event that is being investigated prior to being interviewed."
The audit noted that the issue of when to review is one that has fostered considerable debate, both in Palo Alto and in other jurisdictions.
"PAPD's awareness of the relevant pros and cons is encouraging, and we hope they will continue in their efforts to formulate clear and effective policy," Gennaco's report states.