Palo Alto group seeks to bridge gap between police, community | February 5, 2010 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

News - February 5, 2010

Palo Alto group seeks to bridge gap between police, community

New Community Advisory Group offers the Police Department 'candid' advice behind closed doors

by Gennady Sheyner

Palo Alto's newest citizen commission includes an East Palo Alto pastor, a Palo Alto High School student, a retired bank executive, a former Palo Alto mayor and a local resident who had publicly accused Palo Alto police officers of racially profiling her.

This story contains 1496 words.

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Staff Writer Gennady Sheyner can be e-mailed at gsheyner@paweekly.com.

Comments

Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton
on Feb 6, 2010 at 10:38 am

I suggest that the Palo Alto City Council, City Manager and City Attorney reread the Preamble to the Brown Act:

" In enacting this chapter, the Legislature finds and declares that the public commissions, boards and councils and the other public agencies in this State exist to aid in the conduct of the people's business. It is the intent of the law that their actions be taken openly and that their deliberations be conducted openly."
"The people of this State do not yield their sovereignty to the agencies which serve them. The people, in delegating authority, do not give their public servants the right to decide what is good for the people to know and what is not good for them to know. The people insist on remaining informed so that they may retain control over the instruments they have created."

It is mere subterfuge to suggest that since this was not a committee created by the Council that the Brown Act does not apply.


Posted by George Browning, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Feb 6, 2010 at 5:31 pm

We do not need another forum where people can vent their dislike of a city operation. This commission is to explore problem areas between the community and the police. It is not a venue to express negative opinions about the police and police procedures. As Mr. Becchetti said, there are several other avenues to take if you have a complaint against the police - or, I suggest, against any city dept.

The commission members have very diverse backgrounds and have many different outlooks. I'm sure if you contact any member, they would listen respectfully and consider your input thoughtfully. Just don't expect them to agree with you and champion your cause.

Mr. Burch stated it well when he said, if people were allowed to attend and speak, they would use the opportunity to "argue about the past". The commission is extremely broad based and is trying to look to the future and improve community relations.


Posted by Hope, a resident of Southgate
on Feb 6, 2010 at 5:34 pm

Bless you, George.


Posted by petercarp, a resident of Atherton
on Feb 6, 2010 at 6:39 pm

petercarp is a registered user.

Democracy cannot flourish behind closed doors, no matter how good the intentions.

The Brown Act principles speak to the right of the people to know what transpires, it does not speak to their right to speak at a public meeting. The closed door meetings may well reassure the participants but I doubt that they will do the same for those who are locked outside.

If you do not trust the people to be informed then you are in deep trouble.


Posted by George Browning, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Feb 7, 2010 at 11:55 am

The commission is not a public meeting nor set up to be one; so why does the Brown Act apply? I believe the committee members are people of good will.

We trust public or private agencies to carry out their jobs without continuous oversight - an impossible task. If they dishonor our trust, there are remedies under law to punish them. As I understand the Brown Act, it is meant to prevent public officials from secretly making self-serving laws without public scrutiny. No commitments or laws affecting the public good will be made by this commission.

I've seen too many open forums where attacks are made by people with agendas. The participants attacked are sometimes intimidated because they are not used to engaging in verbal fights and won't continue to engage in public service. We can't afford to lose good people this way.


Posted by petercarp, a resident of Atherton
on Feb 7, 2010 at 12:09 pm

petercarp is a registered user.

The way in which this committee was set up does in fact remove it from the requirements of the Brown Act - which, I suggest, was exactly why it was set up this way.

Those involved are clearly people of good will but deliberations behind closed doors will not lead to better community understanding or support. George states that "No commitments or laws affecting the public good will be made by this commission. " Sadly I suspect that is exactly what will happen.

If the meeting were opened to the public and the media to observe, not to speak or otherwise participate, then the members would not be forced to simply state 'Trust us'. Democracy cannot flourish behind closed doors, no matter how good the intentions.


Posted by George Browning, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Feb 7, 2010 at 4:39 pm

It's not the media that is of concern. Palo Alto has a number of critics who would turn this into a review of police procedures, not a forum for a respectful exchange of ideas and suggestions to improve the city/citizen relationships. Stating that "deliberations behind closed doors will not lead to better community understanding or support" is your opinion - contact some of the members and ask them what their opinion(s) are.

It is not a question of democracy and "trust us". The members are not going to do to impose their will on anyone. However, with such a wide range of backgrounds, when the members return to their smaller, diverse communities, One would expect them to discuss the subjects covered in the meetings and return with community input to the next meeting. Certainly Rev. Paul Bains of East Palo Alto will express the feedback from his city.

This is one way in which people can speak openly without being attacked for the views they hold. Living in Atherton you may not attend Palo Alto's council meetings and listen to how critics savage the police. We don't need another way for them to do this.


Posted by petercarp, a resident of Atherton
on Feb 7, 2010 at 4:51 pm

petercarp is a registered user.

Having lived in Palo Alto for 9 years and having served as a Palo Alto Planning Commissioner for 4 1/2 years, I fully appreciate the unique dynamics of Palo Alto and the Palo Alto "Process".

Only time will tell if the secret deliberations of this committee will bear fruit or create greater mistrust by those who are excluded from the process.

I wish the committee well.


Posted by petercarp, a resident of Atherton
on Feb 7, 2010 at 5:09 pm

petercarp is a registered user.

One suggestion if the committee remains behind closed doors - invite a well respected journalist to attend and to report back to the entire community (without naming who said what) on the discussions.


Posted by Mary, a resident of Gunn High School
on Feb 8, 2010 at 10:34 am

Call the FBI and report the officer(s). Be sure to get their badge number and/or use your cell phone to snap a photo of them.

I was stopped (Alma) at least once per school year to be profiled by PAPD until I reported them to the FBI.

Remember the late Albert Hopkins?

Good luck!


Posted by Blair, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Feb 9, 2010 at 8:58 am

REMEMBER Officer Richard May on this day, and all officers that have died in the line of duty.


Posted by Ed, a resident of Professorville
on Feb 9, 2010 at 9:38 pm

obey the law and u will have nothing to complain about.


Posted by George Browning, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Feb 9, 2010 at 10:15 pm

I'm sorry that Mary feels she was picked on. Although "...stopped at least once per school year..." doesn't sound like harassment to me.

An officer must have probable cause to stop someone - a missing license plate, a rear tail light out, speeding, following too close, unsafe lane change, etc.

She is right. If you believe you were unfairly signalled out, get the officer's name and report it to the PAPD, either to Capt. Venable or Lt. Brown and also to the police auditor. The FBI has no jurisdiction over traffic enforcement and would refer any complaint to the local authorities.


Posted by Gunslinger, a resident of another community
on Feb 10, 2010 at 7:50 am

Minorities are targeted because they commit a vastly disproportionate amount of crime. Just like teens. Stop being so thin-skinned and naive. Even minority cops racially profile, cause they know as well as anyone who's likely to be a criminal. Sorry. You minorities want to stop racial profiling? Clean up your communities.


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