Some city leaders denounce chief's comments

Mayor, council member call her statement about questioning African-Americans unacceptable

One day after Police Chief Lynne Johnson acknowledged that department officers have been asked to make "consensual contact" with African-Americans and Hispanics, city leaders denounced her comments as troubling and unacceptable.

Johnson made her comments during Thursday's community meeting focusing on the city's recent string of robberies and burglaries. After the meeting, she stirred more controversy when she told TV news reporters that officers will be particularly on alert for individuals with do-rags because a witness described a robber near the California Avenue train station as being black and wearing a do-rag head covering.

"If my officer sees an African-American who has a do-rag on his head, absolutely the officer will be stopping and finding out who that person is," Johnson told KGO-TV.

On Friday, Mayor Larry Klein denounced Johnson's do-rag statement, calling it "unacceptable, unconstitutional and un-American."

And City Council member Pat Burt, who attended Thursday's meeting, said he was concerned about Johnson's comments after the meeting.

"Wearing a do-rag is not a fitting description of a suspect," Burt said. "It's a clothing style. I'm very concerned as a Palo Altan who cares about our community being diverse and respectful and welcoming."

Johnson made her comments at a community meeting organized to discuss crime prevention. The meeting focused particularly on the city's "spike" of recent robberies, even though total robberies are lower than last years. Burglaries have increased, however. Since mid-June, there have been 16 street robberies in Palo Alto. In 10 of those, the robbers were described as black, one was described a black or Hispanic, one was described as Hispanic and three were described as white one was not seen.

Johnson acknowledged that the department's officers are instructed to initiate "consensual contact" with African-American individuals.

Aram James, a frequent critic of the department, questioned the department's "consensual contact" policy and asked Johnson at the meeting what the department is doing to make sure it doesn't create an atmosphere of fear in the city.

Police officials were scrambling Friday afternoon to prepare a "clarification" statement on Johnson's Thursday-night comments.


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Posted by Alan Cleland
a resident of Southgate
on Nov 1, 2008 at 7:56 am

I attended this entire meeting which began by passing out packets containing police sketches of two perpetrators of assualts on Palo Alto residents. The general tenor of the remarks of Chief Johnson and other officers was that they were on the lookout for people who fit these descriptions. Two people in the audience, who I perceived were hostile to the police, made remarks whose tenor was that the police were engaged in racial profiling. Chief Johnson took issue with this, and I did not feel that this was her intent, either. I feel that to overfocus on "do-rags" or any apparel is to lose the larger context of physically profiling dangerous individuals, which is not the same as profiling groups of people. My thanks to Chief Johnson for using sketches made from actual victim descriptions to catch the felons who have been attacking Palo Alto residents.

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Posted by Resident
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 1, 2008 at 8:45 am

The mistake the PAPD made was having this meeting at City Hall, they should have taken it out into the neighborhoods. City Hall always attracts the verbal anti-police contingent. The neighborhoods would have been a lot more friendly and probably have attracted a lot more local residents.

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Posted by Howard
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 1, 2008 at 10:18 am

If the suspect would have been white and the chief would have told the cops to stop any suspicious white man there would have been no outcry of racial profiling.

We have to stop people who look like the suspect. In this case, the suspect is African American. This doesn't mean that African American children, women, or elderly people will be stopped, just ones who fit the criminal's description!

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Posted by Funny
a resident of another community
on Nov 1, 2008 at 4:37 pm

The funny thing is that to White Folks, all Blacks and Hispanics look a-like. (ha ha ha) therefore all blacks or hispanics must be stopped and questioned......

Like this comment
Posted by Ralph
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 2, 2008 at 2:07 pm

Time to clean house. Palo Alto PD Chief must go.

Like this comment
Posted by Me
a resident of South of Midtown
on Nov 3, 2008 at 4:34 am

Nice to see Gennady got the story... his first story didn't say anything about profiling.

Like this comment
Posted by Jerry D.
a resident of Mountain View
on Nov 3, 2008 at 1:13 pm

In Palo Alto, "if it looks like a duck......"

Nothing else need be said. Good for the Chief.

Like this comment
Posted by Fred Zane
a resident of Professorville
on Nov 7, 2008 at 9:58 pm

Chief Johnson should go. Palo Alto has suffered enough with the likes of Officers Kan, Verberra, Yore and now Chief Johnson. The beatings and jailings of innocents has got to stop! Palo Altan and African American Rick Walker was convicted by snitch testimony from the man who committed the murder. African American Albert Hopkins a teacher was beaten/pepper sprayed and Chief Johnson covered up the charge of felony assault. Officer Verberra under color of law violated young women below the police station and he served no jail time. Officer Yore participated in the charging another innocent with murder and again Chief Johnson came to the rescue. Palo Altans need to change the police culture of abuse and cover up. "I'm sorry" will not do.

Like this comment
Posted by sid
a resident of Ohlone School
on Nov 7, 2008 at 10:11 pm

Armed home defense will be the answer,
I suppose under different circumstances the Chief could have claimed some sort of grievance state herself based upon identity politics.

But it is probably too late, we need a PAPD that makes evidenced based, probability based and rational decisions, not political, grievance,identity or race based decisions.

The prospect of this demonstration on Sunday is a nightmare, call it off, I hope it rains

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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