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Police told to check out persons based on race

Original post made on Oct 31, 2008

Because most — but not all — recent robberies and burglaries have been committed by persons witnesses describe as black or Hispanic, police may be questioning more persons based on race or
ethnic background, Police Chief Lynne Johnson told residents Thursday night.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Friday, October 31, 2008, 10:01 AM

Comments (86)

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Posted by Szonja Szelenyi
a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 31, 2008 at 10:20 am

What??? Consensual racial profiling? Since when is any form of racial profiling acceptable - constitutionally or otherwise?


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Posted by Andrew
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 31, 2008 at 10:37 am

How is this racial profiling at all? If most — but not all — recent robberies and burglaries have been committed by blacks or Hispanics, should we not be looking for people who match that description?


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Posted by Szonja Szelenyi
a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 31, 2008 at 10:45 am

Dear Andrew,m Here is Amnesty International's definition of racial profiling: "Racial profiling occurs when race is used by law enforcement or private security officials, to any degree, as a basis for criminal suspicion in non-suspect specific investigations. Discrimination based on race, ethnicity, religion, nationality or on any other particular identity undermines the basic human rights and freedoms to which every person is entitled." So, to answer your question: no, it is absolutely NOT appropriate to apply such measures in law enforcement.


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Posted by Replace Johnson
a resident of Stanford
on Oct 31, 2008 at 10:50 am

Andrew--so if a robber is said to be hispanic or black, you consider anyone who is hispanic or black as "matching the description"??
What about stopping every white male, since some of the robberies were carried out by Caucasians.
Looks to me like Johnson is in over her head and is trying to cover her rear,s o she injects the race issue--warning us of the city being overrun by evil blacks and hispanics. Maybe the reason there are so many robberies that are going unsolved is that the police are the culprits


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Posted by parez
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 31, 2008 at 10:50 am

This is absolutely ridiculous! Not at all surprising coming from the papd unfortunately though. Its not even that palo alto has a "robbery" problem. Its just that people here are used to no crime at all that when something happens folks get all shook up. Racial profiling is flat out UNACCEPTABLE. Bottom line, if they want to catch criminals they are gonna have to be a lot smarter, work harder, and be more active in the public. Racial profiling will bring more problems than successes for them as a department. "Consensual" or not.


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Posted by parez
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 31, 2008 at 10:52 am

And to Andrew-You have a lot to learn my friend.


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Posted by Robert
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 31, 2008 at 11:05 am

The Chief cannot help it if alot of black and hispanic people look alike...it's not like you can say the person was a black male with brown hair and green eyes...in my opinion black members of our community should come together and try to catch the people doing these crimes. If someone is consenually contacted and they belong in the area and have done nothing wrong, then there should not be a problem.

The same people here who critize the police ability to conduct consensual contacts I would ask would you rather have the police follow the guy around until they have a violation? Tell me how that would be construed...bottom line, until these guys are caught or the robberies stop, let the freaking police do their job and stop critizing them. I would like to see you do their job having to abide by the same expectations you place on them.


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Posted by Aaron
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 31, 2008 at 11:09 am

Szonja Szelenyi: race can be used as a factor as long it is not the sole reason for the stop. For example, none of the black males involved have been signifcantly overweight. So the police should not be "consensually encountering" significantly overweight black males. Say you just got robbed Szonja, by a black male who was 5-8, 160lbs, wearing all dark clothing. Are you saying if the next night police saw someone in the area matching this description that you would not want the police to at least find out who the guy is? Hello...the guys height, weight, race, and clothing all come in to play with descriptions. Stop playing the race card.


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Posted by James
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 31, 2008 at 11:15 am

parez

Seems like you are the one with a lot to learn, my friend. I agree that racial profiling is unaceptable. This article is not talking about racial profiling. If statistics show that most of these street robberies are committed by black males with avergae height and build, in a specific area of town, and during specific times, then police are going to patrol those areas during the same times, and if someone fits the descrtiption, the minimum diligent and reasonable effort should be to talk with the person and inquire information. Obviously it is going to be the officer's responsibility to come across in a professional manner and yes, that is not always done the way it should be. We are so critical and analytical of our officers who protect our lives on a daily basis. You should at the minimum show a little respect. Because when you need help, we know who you are going to call.


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Posted by Sarah
a resident of another community
on Oct 31, 2008 at 11:29 am

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by M
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Oct 31, 2008 at 11:59 am

Sarah,
Do u have any idea how much it cost to live in PA? "If dark skinned residents" are u kidding me these are no joe six packs here. When a town house starts at 1.5mil dollars these people shouldn't have to "move out of town". "Dark skinned resident" money is good enough to help fund the public schools and projects, but if they want to go for a morning jog they have to worry about being stopped now, wtf. What the chief has done is a hang a virtual sign on the city saying "blacks stay away".


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Posted by ;
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Oct 31, 2008 at 12:01 pm

maybe the robberies ARE set up by police .seems that so called anarchist rally last years ,there may have been a provocatueur that smashed window downtown,heard thru a grapevine.think about it,question authorities


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Posted by ;
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Oct 31, 2008 at 12:01 pm

maybe the robberies ARE set up by police .seems that so called anarchist rally last years ,there may have been a provocatueur that smashed window downtown,heard thru a grapevine.think about it,question authorities


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 31, 2008 at 12:24 pm

If the suspects in these crimes (or any crimes) were described as someone whose description I fitted, I would have no objection to police stopping me and checking me out. If I had something to hide, then of course I would not like it, but as I am innocent of the crime then the police stopping me is part of their job and provided they are in no way offensive or accusing me of something which I haven't done, then checking me out is what I expect of them. On the other hand, if I was guilty of this crime and was stopped, I feel sure that my negative attitude towards the police would give them the impression that I had something to hide. In other words, if the innocent black males fitting the description are going about their business and react positively to the police if they are stopped, then they will be on their way straight away with no problems on either side.

In actual fact, many years ago I did fit the overall description of a group of people who were committing crimes, and I went to the local police myself and happily gave them my name and address and why I was telling them, and they were very happy to see me do this but unfortunately there was no way that they could record this information. But it made me feel better just in case something happened that I could possibly have been accused of. So I do have some experience of this.


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Posted by oh, please!
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 31, 2008 at 12:25 pm

M, you're imagining things. If a robber matched your description exactly and the police were on watch for anyone fitting that profile, would you think that you are no longer welcome in the community? If they caught the suspect, wouldn't you feel safer and more welcome once people stopped eying you with suspicion? If the only people left in the community matching your profile were law abiding ones, wouldn't trust be improved?
Note that I have no idea or preconceptions of your physical appearance - my comments apply to anyone.
Unless the police start questioning very short, tall or overweight dark-skinned men, it seems to me they're doing their job to protect ALL of us - dark medium build men included.


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 31, 2008 at 12:26 pm

If the suspects in these crimes (or any crimes) were described as someone whose description I fitted, I would have no objection to police stopping me and checking me out. If I had something to hide, then of course I would not like it, but as I am innocent of the crime then the police stopping me is part of their job and provided they are in no way offensive or accusing me of something which I haven't done, then checking me out is what I expect of them. On the other hand, if I was guilty of this crime and was stopped, I feel sure that my negative attitude towards the police would give them the impression that I had something to hide. In other words, if the innocent black males fitting the description are going about their business and react positively to the police if they are stopped, then they will be on their way straight away with no problems on either side.

In actual fact, many years ago I did fit the overall description of a group of people who were committing crimes, and I went to the local police myself and happily gave them my name and address and why I was telling them, and they were very happy to see me do this but unfortunately there was no way that they could record this information. But it made me feel better just in case something happened that I could possibly have been accused of. So I do have some experience of this.


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Posted by Observer
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Oct 31, 2008 at 12:28 pm

What is they stop & consensually question white people? Is that racial profiling? What if the police are looking for white suspects? What about if the officer is a person of color? Puhlease.


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Posted by neighbor
a resident of another community
on Oct 31, 2008 at 12:34 pm

Sarah and other nut-cases who say or believe that "If dark skinned residents don't want to be harassed by the Palo Alto police, all they have to do is leave town" are really frightening.

So much hysteria. Basic rights and simple humanity go out the window pretty fast, don't they?

What a "community"... against teaching Chinese, against any "low" income housing (really middle-income), against hospital modernization...now in favor stopping black people on the street.

Who would even want to live, or even shop/eat, in Palo Alto anymore? To do so could be pretty scary. More and more, Palo Alto reminds me of all those insular "Twilight Zone towns" that Rod Serling depicted so well. Well...the TZ marathon is coming up. Watch it and see how ugly small town racism and protectionism is.


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Posted by Listen Up
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 31, 2008 at 12:41 pm

There is absolutely nothing wrong with appearance profiling because it absolutely undeniably works. Anybody who argues with this is just lying to himself. We profile people internally all the time by their apperances. Unfortunately, one's race is just part of one's appearance.

If two white boys wearing blue suits knock on my door, I will automatically profile them as Mormons or Jehovah's Witnesses. It is within our natural instincts to form conclusions based on what we've seen in the past.

If I'm walking through the Caltrain underpass and I see two black or hispanic men coming towards me wearing suits and carrying briefcases, I wouldn't be leery of their approach. But if I see two such men wearing hooded shirts with sunglasses on, I do not feel an ounce of guilt to be cautious and think the worse before I think the best of them. My personal safety could be on the line and this is no time for political correctness. If this constitutes "racial profiling", I think we should do more of it.


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Posted by Listen Up
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 31, 2008 at 12:55 pm

To neighbor,

I think Sarah is actually on your side. She was just baiting someone with that comment. You clearly fell for it. (No I'm not Sarah)


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Posted by Daniel
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 31, 2008 at 1:01 pm

Wow, racial profiling much?

To everyone who is saying that this isn't racial profiling, if the sole reason they're pulling over someone is because of the color of their skin, it's racial profiling. If a crime is committed by someone who is white, do you see them pulling over every white person who passes through the area? No, you don't. But if someone who commits it is black, then they start pulling over every black person in the area. It's racial profiling.

Also, to listen up, let's say you see two white males wearing hooded sweatshirts with sunglasses on. Would you be extra cautious of them? If not, then that is racial prejudice, and I would have to question your ethics.


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 31, 2008 at 1:09 pm

Daniel

If it was dark, yes.


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Posted by Jared
a resident of Ventura
on Oct 31, 2008 at 1:10 pm

Classic Palo Alto stuff.

Everyone wants to show how non racist they are but then things like this happen behind closed doors.


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Posted by P.Willis
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Oct 31, 2008 at 1:22 pm

I have heard there are a lot of elderly Russian and Korean women who use walkers that are suspected in many of these crimes. In fact, wasn't the last California Ave. robbery supposedly committed by a 4 year old wearing a "Wow Wow Wubbzy" T-shirt, and "Lightning McQueen" shoes?


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Posted by About Time
a resident of another community
on Oct 31, 2008 at 1:23 pm

I'm glad criminal protection is giving way to victim protection, finally. It's about time that suspicious people, who have no business other than to rob and thieve, be harassed by law-abiding citizens to conduct their low-life activities else where!


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Posted by oh, please!
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 31, 2008 at 1:25 pm

Daniel - show me where they said they'd pull over "every black person in the area". They're profiling based on MORE than just skin color, therefore it's not racial profiling. Sheesh. People are so quick to jump to conclusions. It's ironic that that's their main argument against the police.


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Posted by P.Willis
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Oct 31, 2008 at 1:53 pm

Isn't it funny how people who live outside of the law, e.g., people who would commit armed or strong-arm robbery get away with profiling victims, but the cops can't profile potential suspects based on appearance.

Personally, I don't care who you pull over - just stop these thugs from robbing us!!! If you make it harder for cops to do their jobs, they won't want to work in our town, and crime will get worse. You know, if you don't like the idea of police being able to work effectively, you may want to move to Berkeley.

Here, in Palo Alto, many of us can use are brains and distinguish with harassment of people based on race, and legitimately seeking out suspects in crimes that have been committed by persons of similar descriptions.


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Posted by P.Willis
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Oct 31, 2008 at 1:54 pm

Yes, I'm aware of the irony in telling people that I can use my brain, then making such an obvious grammatical error. I meant "use OUR brains" not "use are brains."


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Posted by Anne
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 31, 2008 at 2:13 pm



Criminal profiling makes sense, is perfectly legal and should be enforced aggressively by the PAPD.

The fact they are using decoys is great, the PAPD should use deadly force if attacked, that will put a stop to beating and mugging of elderly ladies in this town real fast.


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Posted by White People Can't Dance
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Oct 31, 2008 at 2:14 pm

Johnson says police will intiate consensual contact. What is that? If the police initiate consensual contact with me can I just walk away without saying anything, without producing an ID? Can I just run away? There is a difference between consensual contact and consensual search. There is also anecdotal evidence that Johnson had previously ordered officers to stop or curtail the practice of consensual search. Did she mean police will initiate consensual contact, whatever that means, or did she mean police will restore the practice of consensual search?


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Posted by James
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Oct 31, 2008 at 2:17 pm

When the unabomber manhunt was going on, many, many white guys got questioned by the FBI. The FBI had a certain profile (race, age, gender, as well as a general sketch of description).

The recent street assaults and batteries were carried out by black males of a certain age range. Why waste time questioning white females? Or black females? Or Asians?

Profiling is an essential crime fighting tool.

Get over it.


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Posted by Darin Pace
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 31, 2008 at 2:25 pm

I have lived in Palo Alto for over 30 years and have suffered numerous incidents of the police using "due diligence". I have been pulled over many times and not even gotten a ticket.

One officer saw me going down Oregon Expressway approaching the ramp to north 101 and came across solid lines from the South 101 turn off to follow me all the way to EPA. Once I was in EPA by the IKEA store then she turned on her lights. She had one of those young people with her I think they are called "Explorers". The police officer was "exploring" me to show off to that young person. I got no ticket. I was just humiliated so as to show off to a youngster. In other incidents the officers saw my face at night on Charleston but not my friend who is white was driving. Believe me my friend became a believer in racial profiling being true after that incident and he let the officer know about it too!

As an African-American man I find this special attention disturbing. And, whether the chief says its my right or not I will not talk to police nor watch what I wear.


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Posted by Cassidy
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 31, 2008 at 2:30 pm

It is perfectly understandable that the cops stop suspicious people who fit the description of the suspects. In this case, the suspects are African American.

The police are simply doing their job. They're trying to catch the suspects. Period.


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Posted by M
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Oct 31, 2008 at 2:49 pm

If you think this is ok then you're lying to yourself. Example: Years ago I was in fry's with 2 friends one black, and one white. I got pulled out of fry's electronics with my black friend handcuffed and laid on the hood of the car, the police would not tell me why. My white friend was yelling at the police "I'm with them too, why aren't u taking me to?", lol.

After a few minutes and btw I love all the attention I got from people looking and pointing, the officer asked me where I was on Dec 13th 1997. I told the officer I was at work and he could check the payroll and security cameras. At that point I was released and told that a person (fry's employee) thought my friend and I looked like some people that had robbed him 9 months prior.

Well, I was innocent and polite but I will never forget that as long as I live, especially the call I got from my grandmother later because a family friend saw me in cuffs outside of fry's. What u fail to understand is the embarrassment and humiliation associated with being stopped, especially in front of your neighbors.


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Posted by MC
a resident of Menlo Park
on Oct 31, 2008 at 2:50 pm

This is outrageous, how is the police chief of all people so blatantly ignorant. There is a fine line between racial profiling and criminal profiling and she crossed it. If a suspicious person is in a residential area then by all means question them but if your colored and walking on University Ave should you get questioned. The police chief is an idiot and should be asked to resign. She is obviously leading PAPD in the wrong direction.


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Posted by Jane Doe
a resident of Southgate
on Oct 31, 2008 at 3:02 pm

I have two sons. They are white. They have shaven heads. They shave their heads because they play football and its easier to take care of. They have friends of all races and backgrounds. But, they get judged by the way they look by others because they could possibly be "skinheads". They too have been subject to being pulled over just because they look that way. If they were walking around in East Palo Alto, don't you think the residents there would be wondering why they are there, and don't you think that the police would stop them and ask what were they doing there? The first thought in that officer's mind is they are there to cause trouble and the reason he would make that assumption is because of the way they look. It happens in ALL communities when you look different than the demographics that is indicative to that city. Way back in "the day" when us "Hippies" were wondering around the streets amongst the people wearing suits and ties, we got the same treatment. If the police ignore the facts of the way people look that are responsible for committing a crime, how are they supposed to find the people responsible? If someone kidnapped your child and that person was described as an asian woman wearing a blue dress wouldn't you want the police to be looking for that person? And if you were the one being stopped, get over it and understand that is why you are being stopped!

I think too many people are way to "thin skinned" (no matter what that skin tone might be) to the fact that the police are doing their job. For god's sake let them do it. If you aren't committing any crimes, you have nothing to be worried about.


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Posted by haha
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 31, 2008 at 3:03 pm

MC, you hit the nail on the head. I was about to type the same thing until I read your comment. Johnson needs to go!


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Posted by parent
a resident of Ohlone School
on Oct 31, 2008 at 3:17 pm

To M,

You said "At that point I was released and told that a person (fry's employee) thought my friend and I looked like some people that had robbed him 9 months prior."

You and your friend got apprehended because you guys matched the description of criminals that robbed Fry's before. What's this got to do with racial profiling.


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Posted by Sharon
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 31, 2008 at 3:18 pm



Armed decoys with orders to use deadly force when warranted is the answer.

A few dead or crippled perps and the criminals will go elsewhere where the pickings are easier.


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Posted by Becky Brewer
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 31, 2008 at 3:19 pm

I find it shocking that people do not know their neighbors and would be calling the police to say that someone is acting suspicious and it might possibly be someone who lives close by. My neighbors know our family and I know their families. Just because someone is walking through your neighborhood and you do not know who they are or don't like the way they dress, does not give you permission to say they are suspicious looking. I agree that if you have not done anything wrong, you SHOULDN'T have to worry about it but I know that is not the case. I know several people who have been harassed by police when they have been doing nothing wrong but were treated as if they had done something wrong. Maybe you can't relate to this since it has not happened to you.


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Posted by anonymous
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 31, 2008 at 3:21 pm

I think the problem here is that people don't understand what "consensual contact" actually is. It's a police officer walking up to you and saying "Hi, how are you? Can I talk to you?" You're not under arrest and you're not even in custody. As a private citizen, I can start a conversation with anyone I like, and police officers don't loose that right when they put on a uniform.


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Posted by Darin Pace
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 31, 2008 at 3:33 pm

Jane Doe,

You are just not getting the point. It is not just about cops doing their job it is about a systemic problem of law enforcement targeting minorities in a broad racial net. It is about the stressfulness of being a constant target. I am a citizen like you. I prize my privacy and freedom like all Palo Altans.

If there was a black male about 20 wearing blue jeans and a red baseball cap who just robbed someone I have no problem with police pursuing suspects matching that description. Race is just an aspect of that suspect. But when the top law enforcement officer makes a command to search for a suspect simply because he is racially darker skinned, that is too broad and irresponsible. An educated and experienced police chief must consider the past history and sensativity of the racial profiling subject.

We pay our law enforcement to be more discerning than a vigilante group that calls for the round up of the "usual suspects". Hire more policeman, make more patrols, increase neighborhood watch involvement, investigate, do dectective work, and set up decoys.


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Posted by anonymous
a resident of another community
on Oct 31, 2008 at 3:47 pm

Darin, I think you let you prejudices bias your view of the police. I've been stopped by the police number of times, and released without given a ticket. I like to think it's my charming personality. You really should relax the next time a police officer pulls you over, and really look at the situation objectively. You're probably being paranoid.

The police are not arresting or even detaining all black/hispanic people they see, just talking to them. Personally, I think the cops should talk to more people, make them seem more human and approachable. Who knows, maybe even just talking to the criminals might scare them out of the area.

And yes, I've been detained, and two of my friends have spend some time in county.


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Posted by Paly '77
a resident of another community
on Oct 31, 2008 at 4:00 pm

Well at least we don't have to worry about the Chief targeting lesbians!


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Posted by Jane Doe
a resident of Southgate
on Oct 31, 2008 at 4:11 pm

Darwin,

I got the point, you didn't seem to get mine. This is not systematic targeting and I don't think its a "problem" among police officers, who are people of all different races. By jumping to the conclusion that all police are doing this makes you just as guilty on "profiling", you are just selecting another group - the police. They are looking for a specific description of person, and if this person was white, we wouldn't even be having this description, because after all, people "of color" aren't racist. (That was sarcasim).


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Posted by sonny
a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 31, 2008 at 4:17 pm

Damn, just when O.J. was about to apprehend the real killers, this happens.


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Posted by Greg
a resident of Menlo Park
on Oct 31, 2008 at 4:34 pm

We should just fingerprint and iris-scan every resident of Palo Alto. If you've done nothing wrong you shouldn't have to worry about your privacy being violated.

Even better, we could put implant an RFID into everyone and have scanners at every intersection so we can monitor who was in the area during the robberies.

Of course, we could request all cell phone numbers of people who were in the area and had their cell phones on.

There are a lot of solutions. :)


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Posted by One Point
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 31, 2008 at 4:37 pm

One point that is being forgotten here is that when describing an attacker, the color their skin is one of the first and most obvious things that is noticed. It is much harder to estimate how tall they are, or how heavy they are, if you have been thrown to the ground and you are a small person yourself, they are just big and heavy. If this was a community where there were very few black people seen on a regular basis, then this description would be very helpful. Unfortunately, in Palo Alto where we are used to seeing people who fit this description all the time and the majority of whom are just going about their personal, daily business, this description is not very helpful. No wonder some people take offence. If we had a little more to go on, tatoos, facial hair, etc. it might make a difference to the attitudes of those who fit the description. Unfortunately, we don't have this extra information.


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Posted by Steve
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 31, 2008 at 4:43 pm


This is NOT racial profiling. Nobody should have anything to worry about if you follow the law. Just live your life. Get over yourself and protecting your "personal freedoms". Its not all about YOU all the time. There is a serious crime issue and the police are looking for people that match the description. Its a no brainer. Nobody is going to get arrested or in trouble, unless you are doing something wrong. So just go about your business.

I mean if you think about it we all have been profiled at some point. When I was a teenager I was followed around in stores because they always thought I was going to steal something. That is profiling right there, and too bad. I could make a big deal about it, because I really did hate it, but the reality is that most theft occurs by teenagers so what am I to do?

Ideally this type of profiling would not have to happen. But look, the reality is that I would rather sacrifice a personal freedom to feel safer in my community.


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Posted by oh, please!
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 31, 2008 at 4:53 pm

The point people keep missing is that the police are not interested in ALL dark-skinned males. It's not a racial thing, although race is part of the profile. How can it not be? To the person who described "a black male about 20 wearing blue jeans and a red baseball cap", realize that the jeans and cap can be changed. The age and race cannot. The more descriptive a victim can be, the more specific the profile becomes. It's a stretch to think that our police prefer a vague description so they can run off and conduct ineffective racial profiling. Why are so many people quick to jump to such a conclusion?
Having said all that, I do sympathize with being handcuffed in public when an unhandcuffed discussion in a more private setting could net the same result without the humiliation. There's no excuse for that.


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Posted by MC
a resident of Menlo Park
on Oct 31, 2008 at 5:04 pm

If your ass is white and not colored than obviously you are not going to understand what being racially profiled feels like. If you live in fairytale land and don't ever interact with people of color then you dont understand of the disconnect that exists in our societies. The police chief is only serving the white community with a total disregard for the minority population. This is not the role of a police chief. Im tired of all these white people thinking there is no prejudice in the police department towards minorities. Of course you wouldnt understand b/c your white. The police chief let the "cat out the bag" as it was quoted in an article. This police chief needs to go, she need to be asked to resign! Racial profiling is wrong no matter what way you want to justify it.


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Posted by annonyms
a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Oct 31, 2008 at 5:14 pm

this is bull shit
they shouldnt do this
just cuz we color
ppl
n not bleach(white)
u racist!


happy haloween!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


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Posted by Daniel
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 31, 2008 at 5:33 pm

The sentiment of "This isn't that bad, just get over it." is a sentiment that can only be expressed by someone who never has to deal with their own race being targeted by a majority group.

If there ever is a day where people are racially profiled for being white (which, I doubt will ever happen, in this country at least) I'm sure, no, I can guarantee, you'd change your tune.


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Posted by parez
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 31, 2008 at 5:37 pm

WAY TO GO CHIEF!


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Posted by john
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 31, 2008 at 5:53 pm



All cell phones now have location technology, gps or other.

People have a wrong belief about the degree of privacy they have.

There is no privacy.

I have no objection to the police contacting people who close to the scene of a serious crime, I have nothing to hide and would like to help.

The problem is people who do not carry cell phones, or people like terrorists who use disposable cell phones bought with cash and no ID.


I am a member of a minority, I obey all laws apart from minor traffic laws, I do not mind being involved in conversation with the police, in fact I would like to see officers assigned to each neighborhood to get to know the residents and merchants and head off crime.


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Posted by ???
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 31, 2008 at 7:19 pm

I wonder if there would be all this attention if Johnson happened to be African American instead of caucasian?


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Posted by Teacher mom
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 31, 2008 at 7:20 pm

If the robberies were being committed by a white person, I'm sure the police chief would not have every white person stopped.


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Posted by Gary
a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 31, 2008 at 7:31 pm

"If the robberies were being committed by a white person, I'm sure the police chief would not have every white person stopped."

Teacher mom,

Nor should they. The police would need to determine gender (probably male), age (probably 18-35), race (white, by your own argument), size (approximate), type of dress, etc. The police should do their standard profiling, and act on it. That is called good police work. That seems to be what they are doing in this situation.

What is the problem?


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Posted by sasra
a resident of Stanford
on Oct 31, 2008 at 8:08 pm

look,
we all have cameras on our cell phones, capture the image of anyone who you suspect, send it to a PAPD web site, they can do a search of time and place and we have community security.


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Posted by Jon
a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 31, 2008 at 9:33 pm

The idea here is to prevent abuse. Targeting minorities is going to happen whether they announce it or not, it's just human nature to suspect people who fit the profile of people. Unfortunately, it presents a burden upon people of minority status who do not themselves commit any crime. Probable cause, as mentioned, is how police must operate.

Let's end the hate, and tackle crime responsibly.


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Posted by Danesha
a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Oct 31, 2008 at 9:59 pm

"I want you to go and have consensual contacts with African Americans to see WHO THEY ARE..."


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Posted by Maria
a resident of Professorville
on Oct 31, 2008 at 11:19 pm

So, if I give the police a description of my mugger: 5'10", dark-complected African American, about 230 lbs, it would be racial profiling for the police to talk to similar looking people in the neighborhood of my assault? What should the police do? Stop 2 white people for every 1 black person who matches the description I gave them? What a marvellous use of limited police resources. Should they maybe stop white women too, just in case my attacker was a white woman dressed as large black male?

Police must be free to suspect a person who fits the wanted poster/description; and they must be able to do so regardless of any fear of being accused of racial profiling.

I commend the police chief for her pragmatism.


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Posted by Midtowm
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 1, 2008 at 12:30 pm

Classic reporting by Gennady Sheyner and Jay Thorwaldson, Jay cuts out of the video the question asked of Chief Johnson and the dialogue which followed.


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Posted by narnia
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 1, 2008 at 1:42 pm

Maria,
police in Pittsburgh PA did precisely what you are advocating and many blacks were frisked on that account. It turns out that the white woman working for the McCain campaign who reported being assaulted by a black man shouting politically motivated slurs was lying. No assault took place and she was the only person involved in the lie.
Had any african american been nearby when she said she was assaultedhe would have been charged and maybe convicted.

Of course you have to go after descriptive characteristics, but stopping anybody just because of their race is unconstitutional as it should be- if race is only one of the characteristics that apply to a possible description. In other words if I say that somebody is male, blonde and blue eyed, corpulent and bald should all that are male and blonde be stopped? Of course not. I think that's why it is difficult to understand what has been reported are the directives from the top cop. What she seems to be saying is that regardless of the person's other characteristics if the report refers to blacks then stop all blacks. I suggest that that is wrong unethical and against the law. I hope she clarifies this
in no uncertain terms.


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Posted by Jerry
a resident of Palo Verde
on Nov 1, 2008 at 2:20 pm

"if I say that somebody is male, blonde and blue eyed, corpulent and bald should all that are male and blonde be stopped? "

narnia,

Except for the bald part, that desciption fits me, even twenty years ago. I regret being corpulent, and it is fully my own fault, but that is another story.

Back then I was stopped several times, while on the streets of Palo Alto, becasue some guy who fit my basic description was committing crimes in the area. I got the full pat down twice. It got a little old, but I never blamed the cops for doing their jobs.


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Posted by Fremont
a resident of another community
on Nov 1, 2008 at 2:59 pm

According to the Mercury-News, the police are looking for a young white man (6 foot tall, 200 pounds, early 20s) for a string of muggings near the Fremont BART station. Should they be rounding up all young white men for questioning? Maybe just all 6 foot tall white men?


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Posted by Driver
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 1, 2008 at 4:02 pm

I was driving on Hamilton through the street of huge houses and saw some Hispanic youths walking wearing athletic gear and hood on because it is raining. I looked at them, they at me. I called the police and they said they cannot do anything unless the people are doing something suspicious. I said "they do not look like they live in the neighborhood" and they told me that was not enough. Do they need to be running with a TV in hand to be considered suspicious? They should at least send out a patrol car so the youths know that they have been seen by a cop. I am not asking the police to question them. Perhaps the police can stop and just greet them to acknowledge their presence so if they are up to no good, they might think twice.


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Posted by Suze
a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 1, 2008 at 4:27 pm

All the wonderful good people that are African American get such a bad rap for their race as a "group". The continual crimes committed by African Americans from EPA is making it hard for the African Americans who are wonderful people.


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Posted by Paul
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Nov 1, 2008 at 6:57 pm

Well our mayor has come down on the right side of this apparently, so all you Guiliani fans and others of the same beliefs can move back to NYC where you belong! Ah, beautiful and law-abiding NYC, where people follow fire engines to get across town quicker (according to my friend who lived there up until 3 years ago) ;-) Oh..but the cabbies don't swear! ;-)

Well anyway, I hope you all read the news item awhile back that English is spoken in a MINORITY of Santa Clara homes now...let's get over our whiteness, because pretty soon we will be small enough group to be profiled too!

Anyway, it has been an entertaining conversation. And a real eye-opener for me to hear some of the attitudes of the neighborhood.

Hopefully a few years of Barack as president will loosen people up a bit...I sure hope so! We've been living in a fear based culture for WAAAAY too long (seems like about 8 years now, doesn't it? probably longer ... sigh!)


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Posted by narnia
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 1, 2008 at 7:22 pm

Driver,

Why do you think (or what gives you the right?) to expect that the streets (public, no less) of Palo Alto are just for the people who "look" as if they belong here? Is there any of your business who is walking the streets in peace and doing nothing wrong? I am glad the police told you like it is. Should become a little more mature maybe you understand what an awful thing you did, wanting hispanics out of Palo Alto. Shame on you.
Please don't make yourself into a federal law criminal. Many hispanics are fighting hard and dying for you at this moment. Shame on you again.


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Posted by chris
a resident of Walter Hays School
on Nov 1, 2008 at 9:08 pm

Driver, I've seen Narnia's posts before. Don't bother with her. She will argue that everyone is a racist. Not even worth trying to work with her because she will call everyone a racist even when they are not.


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Posted by narnia
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 1, 2008 at 9:40 pm

Chris,
Since I am not in the habit of calling names to others please let me and other posters know
where you have found any post of mine calling anybody a racist. If you do not what should be concluded from your accusation?


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Posted by Ann
a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 1, 2008 at 10:03 pm

I am a Palo Alto resident and I am a Hispanic. I just saw the video of Police Chief Lynne Johnson, and I am deeply offended by her words! And I am alarmed that some people believe that was she said it is okay. No excuses. I do not buy her apology. She must leave!


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Posted by Basil Moutosopoulos
a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 2, 2008 at 4:26 pm

This is horrible, if we wanted to live in New Jersey we would. Such behavior by the Police Cheif is not acceptable in Palo Alto or anywhere for that matter.


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Posted by Basil Moutosopoulos
a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 2, 2008 at 4:27 pm

This is horrible, if we wanted to live in New Jersey we would. Such behavior by the Police Cheif is not acceptable in Palo Alto or anywhere for that matter.


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Posted by Basil Moutosopoulos
a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 2, 2008 at 4:27 pm

This is horrible, if we wanted to live in New Jersey we would. Such behavior by the Police Cheif is not acceptable in Palo Alto or anywhere for that matter.


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Posted by Ralph
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 2, 2008 at 5:31 pm

Time for the new City Manager to clean out the stables, beginning with a new Police Chief.


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Posted by narnia
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 2, 2008 at 8:25 pm

Since December 1999 New Jersey stopped racial profiling after a well publicized case, one of many. "Under a deal reached to stave off a lawsuit threatened by the federal government, New Jersey has agreed to new procedures to ensure that its state police do not target minorities when making traffic stops"
We would do well to read on the consequences of racial profiling because there is nothing consensual about it. If the only reason to stop and talk to somebody is the color of their skin then there is something amiss in the work of keeping us all safe.


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Posted by The Taxpayer
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 2, 2008 at 8:47 pm

You have got to be kidding me with this profiling nonsense! I live in Old PA and pay more in taxes than most of the pin heads that comment in this forum earn. What are you talking about? We have two small kids and my wife is in the house all day. Should we have the Chief of Police chase down some Chinese lady? How about an investment banker in pin stripes? Please - if the criminals are black or mexicans and fit a particular height and weight profile - stop them and check it out.

I'm sick of these liberals who want to opine on blackness when half of you never lived near black people in your life! I grew up in the inner city. I have seen racism and experienced it up front and personal. Any black family that is being victimized by thugs simply wants them off the streets - this isn't a race issue, it's a crime issue. Get off your political correctness. I don't want crime in this city. So let the police do their jobs and interview the people that fit the description.

Keep up the good work PAPD - you're the only city department spending my money wisely!!


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Posted by narnia
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 2, 2008 at 9:56 pm

The issue is has nothing to do with crime, it has to do with race being the sole factor that merits a stop. As far as how much money you or the rest of us make it's not relevant neither is the fact that you lived in the inner city. I don't know where you learned your manners but I do know that insulting others is neither an accomplishment nor an entitlement (and you really don't know WHO is posting on this forum so get off your pseudo high horse). If a profile fits someone by any means stop the person. A good police work profile doesn't just encompass race. Stopping somebody just because of race and no other characteristic is neither effective nor legal because you are assuming that all of that race are criminals. And do you know enough if you think that any hispanic is a mexican or is that just another display of ignorance? For you any african american person or hispanic looking must be a criminal and that's what's abhorrent, scary and wrong. As someone who dealt with crime personally up and close in a very big inner city I could tell you of all kinds of gangs some in pinstriped suits with chinese ladies involved and some with very "white" people. Seeing someone with suspicion JUST because of the color of their skin and nothing else strikes as deeply flawed and exactly akin of any other type of hatred that used to be currency being it against jews, blacks, irish or italians just to name a few.


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Posted by Adam
a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 3, 2008 at 6:35 pm

In 16 robberies, 10 suspects were of color. If we are to assign one suspect per robbery, that would mean that there were either fewer hispanic suspects, fewer black suspects, or fewer of both hispanic and black suspects than there were white.

Racial profiling is not just wrong in principle, in this case, it is quite simply nonsensical.

The chance of an increased focus from the police force on people of color helping to solve this problem is minimal. Most likely, the perpetrators are not residents of Palo Alto and are only in the area while committing the crime.

The chance of raising fear, resentment, and mistrust from the community at large and the targeted demographics in particular is 100%. As a community, we must be more vigilant of losing our soul than our flat screen TVs.

We as Palo Altans must take responsibility for the protection of all residents and speak out against this deeply misguided policy.


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Posted by Pete
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 3, 2008 at 6:48 pm

Yawn, Adam. I'd rather have my stuff. Besides, Hispanics aren't considered people of color. The other 6 were probably Hispanics.

Racial profiling does work. I say let's try it for a year and see if crime decreases.


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Posted by Watch the video
a resident of Menlo Park
on Nov 4, 2008 at 1:51 pm

I'm pro-law enforcement, but was shocked at her comments. She overemphasized that suspects are black, as well as saying where they live. It could be they've truly id's suspects and know where they reside, but targeting blacks AND saying suspects live in EPA is a disservice to everyone, because it distracts people. The comments were clumsy, divisive and skewed to be so specific it really doesn't give a good larger picture of what's going on. And to Pete - Latinos are usually called that, they're not usually called white, because it's not as accurate as a description. HM, WM, BF, WF, those are terms cops used to describe hispanic, white, black, etc. More than 2//3 of the suspects are not black, and may blend in better in PA. But that doesn't mean she shouldn't look for them.


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Posted by Anne
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 4, 2008 at 2:25 pm



Just look at the facts Web Link and you understand why the PAPD suspect people from EPA.

In 2006 the violent crime rates per 100,000 in EPA where off the charts.

Murders- 0 PA -VS - 18.4 EPA

Rape-- 1.74 PA -VS-- 67.63 EPA

Assaults 50.4 PA--VS --442.6 EPA

The rates of violent crime in EPA have gone up dramatically since then, this summer they declared a violent crime emergency and called in the Highway Patrol.

Denying reality for PC reasons does nobody any good.


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Posted by Citizen
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 4, 2008 at 10:44 pm

Walmart and Costco assume all of us are thieves. We are required to stand in long lines just to exit the store.

If the perp was an Asian gangster, they would not be looking at an African American.

Most child molesters are old white men. I'm an older white man. If a child were molested, and I fit the description and was questioned, would I accuse our police of profiling me? No, because I am innocent.
And I want the perp to be caught.




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Posted by me
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Nov 10, 2008 at 10:48 am

ALL OF YOU ARE NUTS!!!!!!!! DO YOU HAVE JOBS, CAREERS OR ADVENTURES? YOU SEEM TO THRIVE OFF OF BS AND WE HAVE ENOUGH OF THAT ALREADY!!! CAN'T WE ALL JUST TRY TO GET ALONG INCLUDING THE CHIEF? SHE MADE A MISTAKE IN HER JUDGEMENT BUT ITS OVER LET IT GO, LIFE IS TOO SHORT DO SOMETHING NICE FOR SOMENONE, TREAT SOMEONE WITH LOVE AND KINDNESS AND NO I AM NOT A GIVE PEACE A CHANCE PERSON, JUST A WANT LIFE TO BE GOOD FOR ME AND OTHERS!!!!!


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