News

Police chief fighting for job over race comments

Chief Lynne Johnson's tenure may depend on success of damage-repair from comments last week on officers stopping black men in response to a spike in street robberies

More than 50 persons — including about 40 African-American Stanford University students — attended the Palo Alto City Council meeting Monday night in a show of anger and frustration at Police Chief Lynne Johnson's comments last week about officers being told to stop and identify black men.

Some speakers called on Johnson to resign despite an apology she repeated at the meeting, while others urged a stronger community dialogue and one defended her efforts to combat racism within the department. Some did both, as it became increasingly clear her job as chief may depend on her damage-repair efforts.

The Rev. Anthony Darrington, pastor of the Jerusalem Baptist Church in Palo Alto, said Johnson "doesn't have a racist bone in her body." He then called for her resignation.

"I'm extremely concerned," the Rev. Darrington said. "And the major concern I have is the fact that there is, whether we want to admit it or not, tension brewing with this situation. It should be defused immediately."

Johnson has been mired in controversy ever since she acknowledged at last Thursday's community meeting that her officers are instructed to make "consensual contact" with black men in response to a recent string of street robberies, some of them violent.

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Problems created by Johnson's statements could not be solved with a simple "sorry," the Rev. Darrington said. Johnson had met with members his church earlier Monday.

Other speakers agreed with the Rev. Darrington.

"A simple sorry or apology is not good enough," said Michael Rollerson, noting that even his 7-year-old daughter says she no longer likes the police. "Personally, I think the chief of police should resign."

The calls for her resignation came minutes after Johnson apologized for statements she made last week during and after a community meeting on recent crimes Thursday night.

"I sincerely apologize for the firestorm I have caused," she said at one point, pledging to do her best to repair the damage.

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At the Thursday-night meeting she said in response to a question that because in most recent robberies the perpetrators were described as African-American males that police officers were told to make polite "consensual contact" to identify men who fit that description. During the meeting Johnson qualified her comments by stating that the men should meet other descriptions of the robbers as well, but in television interviews after the meeting she failed to include any qualifiers.

In a follow-up letter to the community, Johnson said she should have included that men contacted by officers should match other descriptions besides race and be in the proximity of where crimes had occurred several robberies occurred near Caltrain stations in Palo Alto.

Johnson issued her first round of apologies Friday following a lengthy meeting with City Manager James Keene and after a media firestorm and denouncements from Mayor Larry Klein and other city leaders.

On Monday night, she reiterated how sorry she is and again retracted her statements from last week.

"The words that came out of my mouth were definitely not the message I was trying to convey," Johnson said. "People who know me know that I never have and never will condone racial profiling.

"For my entire career, I have fought to make sure every person is treated with dignity and respect.

"I will do everything humanly possible to repair the damage I have caused," she said.

Johnson said she will spend the next two weeks meeting with people and putting together a longer-term "action plan" to restore the community's confidence. The plan will include reaching out to the city's ministers and congregations and holding monthly meetings with community members, she said.

Keene said he has asked for the police department's policy to be audited. And the council will have a chance next week to pass a resolution firmly stating its opposition to "racial profiling," the term applied when police stop persons based even partially on their race or ethnic backgrounds.

Monday's regular council meeting was preceded by a closed personnel "performance evaluation" session with Keene, who has been on the job only a matter of weeks. But the content of the session -- which had been scheduled earlier to assess Keene's initial performance and plans -- is confidential.

The department in recent years has been monitoring virtually all traffic stops and other contacts in response to earlier allegations of race-related or "driving while black" bases for the contacts. And the city hired an independent "police auditor" to monitor department practices.

But Keene gave no indication that he plans to fire Johnson at present. He said he would rather see her repair the damage she has caused.

"There were clearly some very inappropriate remarks," Keene said. "If they were true, they would call into question the department's standards and procedures."

Johnson also had a few defenders at Monday's meeting.

Bill Green, a Palo Alto attorney who moved to Palo Alto 37 years ago, said racism is much less prevalent in the police department today than it was a few decades ago. Johnson simply misspoke at last week's meeting, he said.

"I do not believe Chief Johnson is a racist," Green said. "I know things are better for African-Americans under her watch." Green recited a litany of instances in which his children had had unpleasant experiences with officers, including when driving the family car being stopped and asked where they stole the car.

Though many of the Stanford students in attendance voiced their concerns, they fell short of asking for Johnson's resignation.

Matthew Miller, a freshman at Stanford, thanked Johnson for her apology but said the dialogue between the police and community must continue.

Another freshman, Michael Tubbs, called for sensitivity training within the department and an audit of police policies.

"I'm confident we'll not stand for racial profiling," Tubbs said. "We're excited about working with the Palo Alto community to make sure racial profiling doesn't exist in any way, shape or form in our community."

After the meeting, Johnson said she wasn't surprised to hear the community's concerns.

She also said she has no plans to resign, though she would consider it if she felt she was doing damage to the department.

"I've never been one to shy away from controversy," Johnson said.

(Staff Writer Gennady Sheyner can be e-mailed at [email protected])

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Gennady Sheyner
 
Gennady Sheyner covers the City Hall beat in Palo Alto as well as regional politics, with a special focus on housing and transportation. Before joining the Palo Alto Weekly/PaloAltoOnline.com in 2008, he covered breaking news and local politics for the Waterbury Republican-American, a daily newspaper in Connecticut. Read more >>

Follow Palo Alto Online and the Palo Alto Weekly on Twitter @paloaltoweekly, Facebook and on Instagram @paloaltoonline for breaking news, local events, photos, videos and more.

Police chief fighting for job over race comments

Chief Lynne Johnson's tenure may depend on success of damage-repair from comments last week on officers stopping black men in response to a spike in street robberies

by / Palo Alto Online

Uploaded: Tue, Nov 4, 2008, 7:21 am

More than 50 persons — including about 40 African-American Stanford University students — attended the Palo Alto City Council meeting Monday night in a show of anger and frustration at Police Chief Lynne Johnson's comments last week about officers being told to stop and identify black men.

Some speakers called on Johnson to resign despite an apology she repeated at the meeting, while others urged a stronger community dialogue and one defended her efforts to combat racism within the department. Some did both, as it became increasingly clear her job as chief may depend on her damage-repair efforts.

The Rev. Anthony Darrington, pastor of the Jerusalem Baptist Church in Palo Alto, said Johnson "doesn't have a racist bone in her body." He then called for her resignation.

"I'm extremely concerned," the Rev. Darrington said. "And the major concern I have is the fact that there is, whether we want to admit it or not, tension brewing with this situation. It should be defused immediately."

Johnson has been mired in controversy ever since she acknowledged at last Thursday's community meeting that her officers are instructed to make "consensual contact" with black men in response to a recent string of street robberies, some of them violent.

Problems created by Johnson's statements could not be solved with a simple "sorry," the Rev. Darrington said. Johnson had met with members his church earlier Monday.

Other speakers agreed with the Rev. Darrington.

"A simple sorry or apology is not good enough," said Michael Rollerson, noting that even his 7-year-old daughter says she no longer likes the police. "Personally, I think the chief of police should resign."

The calls for her resignation came minutes after Johnson apologized for statements she made last week during and after a community meeting on recent crimes Thursday night.

"I sincerely apologize for the firestorm I have caused," she said at one point, pledging to do her best to repair the damage.

At the Thursday-night meeting she said in response to a question that because in most recent robberies the perpetrators were described as African-American males that police officers were told to make polite "consensual contact" to identify men who fit that description. During the meeting Johnson qualified her comments by stating that the men should meet other descriptions of the robbers as well, but in television interviews after the meeting she failed to include any qualifiers.

In a follow-up letter to the community, Johnson said she should have included that men contacted by officers should match other descriptions besides race and be in the proximity of where crimes had occurred several robberies occurred near Caltrain stations in Palo Alto.

Johnson issued her first round of apologies Friday following a lengthy meeting with City Manager James Keene and after a media firestorm and denouncements from Mayor Larry Klein and other city leaders.

On Monday night, she reiterated how sorry she is and again retracted her statements from last week.

"The words that came out of my mouth were definitely not the message I was trying to convey," Johnson said. "People who know me know that I never have and never will condone racial profiling.

"For my entire career, I have fought to make sure every person is treated with dignity and respect.

"I will do everything humanly possible to repair the damage I have caused," she said.

Johnson said she will spend the next two weeks meeting with people and putting together a longer-term "action plan" to restore the community's confidence. The plan will include reaching out to the city's ministers and congregations and holding monthly meetings with community members, she said.

Keene said he has asked for the police department's policy to be audited. And the council will have a chance next week to pass a resolution firmly stating its opposition to "racial profiling," the term applied when police stop persons based even partially on their race or ethnic backgrounds.

Monday's regular council meeting was preceded by a closed personnel "performance evaluation" session with Keene, who has been on the job only a matter of weeks. But the content of the session -- which had been scheduled earlier to assess Keene's initial performance and plans -- is confidential.

The department in recent years has been monitoring virtually all traffic stops and other contacts in response to earlier allegations of race-related or "driving while black" bases for the contacts. And the city hired an independent "police auditor" to monitor department practices.

But Keene gave no indication that he plans to fire Johnson at present. He said he would rather see her repair the damage she has caused.

"There were clearly some very inappropriate remarks," Keene said. "If they were true, they would call into question the department's standards and procedures."

Johnson also had a few defenders at Monday's meeting.

Bill Green, a Palo Alto attorney who moved to Palo Alto 37 years ago, said racism is much less prevalent in the police department today than it was a few decades ago. Johnson simply misspoke at last week's meeting, he said.

"I do not believe Chief Johnson is a racist," Green said. "I know things are better for African-Americans under her watch." Green recited a litany of instances in which his children had had unpleasant experiences with officers, including when driving the family car being stopped and asked where they stole the car.

Though many of the Stanford students in attendance voiced their concerns, they fell short of asking for Johnson's resignation.

Matthew Miller, a freshman at Stanford, thanked Johnson for her apology but said the dialogue between the police and community must continue.

Another freshman, Michael Tubbs, called for sensitivity training within the department and an audit of police policies.

"I'm confident we'll not stand for racial profiling," Tubbs said. "We're excited about working with the Palo Alto community to make sure racial profiling doesn't exist in any way, shape or form in our community."

After the meeting, Johnson said she wasn't surprised to hear the community's concerns.

She also said she has no plans to resign, though she would consider it if she felt she was doing damage to the department.

"I've never been one to shy away from controversy," Johnson said.

(Staff Writer Gennady Sheyner can be e-mailed at [email protected])

Comments

Joey
Barron Park
on Nov 4, 2008 at 8:29 am
Joey, Barron Park
on Nov 4, 2008 at 8:29 am

We support the police chief!
She told the truth and she shouldn't be ashamed of it.
There were no inappropriate remarks.

If the suspect would have been a 60-year old white male wearing a specific color baseball cap and the police would have been instructed to stop anyone matching this description there would have been NO public outcry.

Face it, in this case the suspect is Black. That doesn't mean anything about Black people in general.


Ralph
Midtown
on Nov 4, 2008 at 9:23 am
Ralph, Midtown
on Nov 4, 2008 at 9:23 am

Time to sweep the stables clean. City Manager Keene should fire the Palo Alto Police Chief.


Dianne
Fairmeadow
on Nov 4, 2008 at 9:31 am
Dianne, Fairmeadow
on Nov 4, 2008 at 9:31 am

I'm no fan of Chief Johnson, but I believe in this case that she only used the wrong words to describe her intent. I do not believe that she actually instructed her officers to approach black men for no other reason than their race. It is obvious that the race and sex of the suspects needs to be taken into account in investigating any crimes.
That said, our community is still suffering from the actions of the police against our black friend and neighbor six years ago, and the Chief should have been sensitive to this and more circumspect in her choice of words.


Ada
Midtown
on Nov 4, 2008 at 9:38 am
Ada, Midtown
on Nov 4, 2008 at 9:38 am

I fully support Police Chief and condemn the low tactics of playing race card and keeping everyone in fear of being ostracised for stating the obvious and being logical. We definitely need to elect Obama, a black president, in hope that he can stop that nonsense, because a white president can't be definition. This is truly ridiculous - overwhelming majority of crimes in Palo Alto being performed by people of color and police should ignore this important factor in suspect profiling? Some people do not want to see an elefant in the room, others are afraid to see it.


To Joey
East Palo Alto
on Nov 4, 2008 at 9:48 am
To Joey, East Palo Alto
on Nov 4, 2008 at 9:48 am

What you may not understand about this whole thing is that her comments were lazy & lopsided, & therefore inappropriate. She failed to be clear in her communications about who her officers were stop. Although there are white suspects, she failed to mention stopping white men who matched the descriptions. And as the above article says, she left out important qualifiers, details about suspect descriptions. Instead, she communicated poorly w/the community & the media.

Whether or not she's racist (I personally believe she is not) is not the point. Her policies & directives to her officers, the precedents they set, how they treat the public - that's what matters. It is racial profiling at its worst if she is not giving balanced, even directives to officers to talk to people who match ALL suspect descriptions, no matter what race, gender or ethnicity. If the focus is only on black suspects, when there are others, that is stupid, narrow-minded, bad management - & bad police work.


palo alto
Old Palo Alto
on Nov 4, 2008 at 10:14 am
palo alto, Old Palo Alto
on Nov 4, 2008 at 10:14 am

Speak for yourself joey. I have been a homeowner in palo alto for over 10 years and I do not back the police chief at all. I believe it is time for her to go. The person who posted to joey above me really hit it on the head in describing her comments. Racist or not, if her public speaking is that poor it makes me believe that her techniques in training her officers are probably quite flawed as well, thus accounting for the incompetence of her officers. In the past I have come across papd cops who didnt even know how to properly fill out a police report and that is a direct reflection of their superiors.


an Educated Mind
Stanford
on Nov 4, 2008 at 10:27 am
an Educated Mind, Stanford
on Nov 4, 2008 at 10:27 am

Wow people. Put yourselves in the shoes of a 20-something African-American living in Palo Alto--perhaps even a Stanford grad--and imagine this:

After working hard an important client presentation, you go to the gym for a quick workout (wearing sweat pants and a hooded sweatshirt), then is rush home to shower and change so that you're not late to the client dinner that night. But wait, you just got stopped for questioning by local Palo Alto Police because you were black and "fit the description." After 10 minutes of questions (and the police running your records against their databases) they apologize for the "inconvenience" and let you go. You show up late to a client meeting that you were working your a$$ off on, and subsequently lose the deal. You've taken pride in never playing the race card, so when your boss asks you what happened, you're reluctant to say I got stopped by the police because I was black. Instead, you courageously state you have no good excuse and should have planned better. And . . . you lose your job.

BRAVO unselfish Black Man, you helped make our city feel more safe. We can't get your job back, but we can offer you our gratitude and perhaps even pat you on the back and say, "Hey, man, you know I'm not prejudice . . . I voted for Barack Obama."


Jeff
Midtown
on Nov 4, 2008 at 10:56 am
Jeff, Midtown
on Nov 4, 2008 at 10:56 am

Chief Johnson repeatedly betrays a lack of sensibility regarding public statements. (Whether she is right or wrong, competent or not)this is a public relations problem for the department and the City- a small investment in good counsel on clearer and more sensitive communication could go a long way. Not talking at all about "spin" here, but training on solid techniques for how best to communicate (including listening). Many public officials and executives find this sort of coaching helpful.


anonymous
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 4, 2008 at 11:22 am
anonymous, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 4, 2008 at 11:22 am

What happened to probable cause? "WWB" a/k/a Walking While Black?
If the perps had been holding white-tipped canes, would the police stop every blind person out for a walk?
Outrageous.


get over it
Green Acres
on Nov 4, 2008 at 11:31 am
get over it, Green Acres
on Nov 4, 2008 at 11:31 am

i think everyone is overreacting, let's move on.


Jake
Midtown
on Nov 4, 2008 at 11:41 am
Jake, Midtown
on Nov 4, 2008 at 11:41 am

I support the police chief. When criminals break the law in this town it only makes sense to look to people who resemble them. The people to whom this outrage should be directed are the perpetrators themselves, who, in behaving lawlessly and with violence, bring down this negative attention on everyone who looks like them. This is not the fault of this community or of a police chief who is only doing her job and had the temerity to speak frankly rather than dumbing down her remarks with political correctness. The problem is with the criminals, not with law enforcement.


David
Midtown
on Nov 4, 2008 at 11:46 am
David, Midtown
on Nov 4, 2008 at 11:46 am

I doubt if the good reverend Darrington can claim that he never misspoke. This is a tempest in a teapot, with nothing being served by castigating a good public servant (Chief Johnson).


JBH
Fairmeadow
on Nov 4, 2008 at 12:13 pm
JBH, Fairmeadow
on Nov 4, 2008 at 12:13 pm

Pastor Darrington, is not, however, the Chief of Police. The issue is the safety and protection of all Palo Altans. LJ may be a good public servant, but she is not an excellant one. In light of the beating of Mr. Hopkins six years ago, she should know better.


Hve fun with that, PA
Midtown
on Nov 4, 2008 at 12:22 pm
Hve fun with that, PA, Midtown
on Nov 4, 2008 at 12:22 pm

I think everyone with common sense should be fired from their jobs, and replaced with people who always say the politically correct thing in "Newspeak".

Oh..wait..we are already doing that.

You get the government, and the police, you choose. Have fun running this Chief out of town and living with the results.


Where are my comments?
East Palo Alto
on Nov 4, 2008 at 1:31 pm
Where are my comments?, East Palo Alto
on Nov 4, 2008 at 1:31 pm

There are more whites than blacks in EPA, but no one talks about that, because few people realize it - they believe in th stereotypes.


Johnson: Foot in Mouth Disease!
East Palo Alto
on Nov 4, 2008 at 1:32 pm
Johnson: Foot in Mouth Disease!, East Palo Alto
on Nov 4, 2008 at 1:32 pm

She needs lessons in public speaking. She should join Toastmaster's. She should also mention that they're looking for white suspects.


Bob
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 4, 2008 at 3:39 pm
Bob, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 4, 2008 at 3:39 pm

When 2 or more persons in a vehicle, wearing suspect clothes (including caps and rags), any ethnicity, driving erratically including not braking at stop signs (rolling stops)with their heads swiveling 180 degrees should be stopped by the Palo Alto Police Department, PERIOD! Thanks to you Chief Johnson, you and the officers are doing an excellent job protecting the residents of this nearly crime free city.


Replace Johnson
Stanford
on Nov 4, 2008 at 3:47 pm
Replace Johnson, Stanford
on Nov 4, 2008 at 3:47 pm

Bob--that is correct. Bob--the police should stop them. However the police were instructed by their chief to stop EVERY african-american person they see. Profiling, racism, call it what you want--it is wrong and it has no place in Palo Alto. Johnson should do the honorable thing and resign


Double Standard
Southgate
on Nov 4, 2008 at 3:49 pm
Double Standard, Southgate
on Nov 4, 2008 at 3:49 pm

Lighten up already. There's a double standard when speaking about race - don't accuse the Chief of racism when she was simply being descriptive about a suspect.


Replace Johnson
Stanford
on Nov 4, 2008 at 3:51 pm
Replace Johnson, Stanford
on Nov 4, 2008 at 3:51 pm

Double standard--if that is the case, then according to the chief even African-americans (any african-american) should be stopped even if the perp was caucasian.


To Double Standard
East Palo Alto
on Nov 4, 2008 at 3:55 pm
To Double Standard, East Palo Alto
on Nov 4, 2008 at 3:55 pm

As an EPA resident who's been the victim of her fair share of crime, to say nothing of observing bizarre situations in my neighborhood, and who harbors few illusions about criminal behavior, I really thought this was overblown - but then I watched the video. Johnson was really inappropriate. I truly hope this situation she created w/her stupid words doesn't create safety issues for officers and people they stop. The focus needs to be on catching these criminals - of all racial backgrounds involved, including those she didn't talk much about. Instead, Johnson, the department and her officers have to do damage control instead of their real jobs. What a waste of time, money, energy, to no avail!


Brad
Stanford
on Nov 4, 2008 at 4:17 pm
Brad, Stanford
on Nov 4, 2008 at 4:17 pm

You go Chief! I truly do believe it was misworded.
I don't think we should pick on someone who is doing her best to protect the residents and town!
STOP OVERACTING!


Peter K. Mueller
Barron Park
on Nov 4, 2008 at 4:31 pm
Peter K. Mueller, Barron Park
on Nov 4, 2008 at 4:31 pm

The value of the police chief lies in the overall effectiveness of the force.

Single events, taken outside that context, should not be determining performance factors and should not be made to become distractions.


Peter K. Mueller
Barron Park
on Nov 4, 2008 at 4:31 pm
Peter K. Mueller, Barron Park
on Nov 4, 2008 at 4:31 pm

The value of the police chief lies in the overall effectiveness of the force.

Single events, taken outside that context, should not be determining performance factors and should not be made to become distractions.


mary
Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 4, 2008 at 4:49 pm
mary, Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 4, 2008 at 4:49 pm



The whole thing is storm in a tea cup and a distraction from catching violent criminals many of whom come from EPA and may be gang members.

EPA declared a violent crime emergency a couple of months ago, the rates are off the charts.

The PAPD is doing the job that the mayor of EPA is unable or unwilling to do.
The EPA community also has a responsibility to inform on gang members.

How about those black Stanford students doing something about reducing violent crime in EPA and Oakland rather than protesting the PAPD?

The crimes by outsiders are not trivial, we have women and elderly women being beaten and robbed, we had a murder in front of the PAPD in July. PA residents have been warned not to walk alone.

We need to focus on stopping violent crime, not waste time and money hand wringing and whining about PC issues


stretch
another community
on Nov 4, 2008 at 5:09 pm
stretch, another community
on Nov 4, 2008 at 5:09 pm

Let's see: the robberies were done by black men? I guess they should start checking into all white guys. Duh. If someone robs a bank wearing a purple shirt, do the police stop all people wearing yellow? This whole thing is blowing out of proportion. Another example of ignoring the facts to be politically correct. Let the police do their jobs.


Tax Payer
Professorville
on Nov 4, 2008 at 6:22 pm
Tax Payer, Professorville
on Nov 4, 2008 at 6:22 pm


As a tax payer in Palo Alto - there is no room for shortsighted public service officers that my money is paying. If this person was a teacher or a doctor that was biased against your child - what would be your opinion then? This is a big world - how about we start being nice to each other in our own community and show our kids that the world really is round and that globalization should start at home. Hope to see you at the walk on Sunday.


Larry
Palo Alto Hills
on Nov 4, 2008 at 8:25 pm
Larry, Palo Alto Hills
on Nov 4, 2008 at 8:25 pm

I support the Chief. Angry and fustrated people always look to make someone a bad peson. Chief Johnson is a class act.


DISGUSTED
Midtown
on Nov 4, 2008 at 9:29 pm
DISGUSTED, Midtown
on Nov 4, 2008 at 9:29 pm

EXCUSE ME? WE NOW HAVE THE MAYOR OF EAST PALO ALTO, A DIFFERENT CITY IN A DIFFERENT COUNTY CALLING THE SHOTS IN PALO ALTO? REALLY? Wow, guess if it's time to 'replace Johnson' it is then also time to replace the Mayor of Palo Alto, the City Manager and the entire City Council since they apparently need the direction of East Palo Alto's Mayor to run Palo Alto's business.

Mayor of EPA, tend to your own problems, we have no need for your input here. Your own City is a disaster, fix that.

Stanford Students? You are short term visitors here. 99% of you will not become permanent residents and have most of you have not resided her for very long. You know nothing of what has been at issue for years in this City, you just found a politically correct bandwagon to jump on so you could make some idealistic noise. Pulling the race card, could anything be more dated?

Thanks to all of you squawkers, we will see a rise in the crime rate. The people screaming for Johnson's resignation/firing have seen to that. What you people fail to realize as you sit on your self constructed elevated thrones of deep socially conscious thought is that a cop is trained to focus on the facts. The Chief gave out the facts as she knew them. She is obviously not a political animal, or she would have used more glib double speak. You have effectively handcuffed our police department. I am so disgusted with this whole situation that if I see something suspicious going down I won't even bother to pick up the phone to report it. I won't lift a finger to help anyone anymore. You asked for this, you got it Palo Alto. Enjoy.

And by the way? With our new President elect? Race card CANCELED. Pulled from the deck. Find another excuse.


long-time resident
Crescent Park
on Nov 4, 2008 at 10:12 pm
long-time resident, Crescent Park
on Nov 4, 2008 at 10:12 pm

Anyone who knows our Chief of Police knows she is not a racist, and knows she would not direct her officers to be so. She made some very unfortunate misstatements. She has issued many apologies. Let her get on with trying to solve the crimes she was addressing.


long-time resident
Crescent Park
on Nov 4, 2008 at 10:21 pm
long-time resident, Crescent Park
on Nov 4, 2008 at 10:21 pm

Anyone who knows our Chief of Police knows she is not a racist, and knows she would not direct her officers to be so. She made some very unfortunate misstatements. She has issued many apologies. Let her get on with trying to solve the crimes she was addressing.


Resident
Palo Verde
on Nov 5, 2008 at 12:08 am
Resident, Palo Verde
on Nov 5, 2008 at 12:08 am

I am honestly upset that African-American people would react this way. If this were said about White people, nobody would claim it was racist. But for some reason it appears that people of color are crying out for pity and attention in this area.

I wish it weren't true. But why is there outcry then? If you are a black African-American that fits the description of a criminal then, yes, that really sucks. But wouldn't you rather get questioned for the sake of the greater community? Or would you rather allow your kids to live in a dangerous neighborhood for the sake of you feeling more respected?

The police chief did not say that in general, black men would be questioned. She was being specific to a large UNUSUAL series of crimes that were committed by someone that looked a certain way.

The other thing is that even if the police chief mis-worded something, how can you attack her like that? People mis-word things sometimes. OBVIOUSLY she does NOT have malicious intent. Even if she was racist she is not stupid enough to proclaim it to the world. It seems like some people out there have nothing to do but wait until someone says something that can be interpreted as racist or sexist and then they take this and argue it to no end, and try to get a person fired.

People must focus on the task at hand, which is catching criminals, and not on mis-construing phrases and attacking people for no reason.


Great White Hope
Professorville
on Nov 5, 2008 at 1:40 am
Great White Hope, Professorville
on Nov 5, 2008 at 1:40 am

Let me tell a true tale, with my own interpretation.

I bike commute and took my bike to be serviced in Menlo Park. I was walking back to Palo Alto along Alma. Just after crossing Lyton on my left was a black male, about 30-40 years old, sitting down. I had my fanny pack on. As I passed him our eyes locked and I realized he was focusing on the fanny pack and sizing me up. Now I'm not saying this as some type of Bernie Getz "that look". Years ago I was a garbageman in Richmond Ca for years and my nickname with my co-workers was "The Great White Hope". I lived in Richmond, Vallejo, Oakland and hung out with a lot of black folks and friends. And back in the day I even hung out a tiny bit with the Black Panther "Hit team", before that had older friends who were in Miss. during voter reg efforts, describing homes burned down and all. But maybe after living in PA for a few years the native racism has returned. Who knows what prejudice lurks heh?

While I wouldn't be surprised that some psych reflex test would unveil some racism instilled from "God Damn America" input I am probably less racist than the average white band. On the other hand who knows, I also had experience chasing after muggers in Oakland and such (with one geriatric white guy victim then pissing off black cop with "hell no, you people all look the same to me" after being asked if he could identify mugger as cop looked to sky and shook his head ala "why me god?").

So go figure --- and I wouldn't even post this except for what happened next.

I was having my van washed at a local car wash. Some Menlo Park cops were also having their car washed. I just started making conversation and maentioned the above potential "pre mugging" incident on Alma to the cop. And in describing the perceived potential aggressor I mentioned "black guy" in description. Now from one angle that was an inclusive way to pinpoint the probability (though from my experience I would bet heavy with big odds I was right about my perception). But then behind me there was a black guy customer at the car wash. Now I then felt bad on two counts---one that I probably upset the guy from my verbal descriptor and as regards my including that as the descriptor.

Now for all you "PA is a liberal city and you deserve whatever crime your liberal ways bring on your heads" folks I really feel you can just...well I'm sure the descriptor of where you can put it would be deleted.

I just feel bad about probably upsetting a fellow American unintentionally and I guess this is my way of apologizing late after the fact.

On the one hand I work closely with a black guy and if describing it to him I would have included the descriptor, albeit with a proviso or sorts ("Hey it's the description, sorry" and he would have made sure to get back at me with cracker humor later!). But in the car wash public arena I'm also sure that, had I known a black citizen was there my verbage would have been tempered or altered. So why wasn't it then before hand?

Images of the movie Crash come to mind.

I offer no solutions, just a true tale from our city. Perhaps this has relevance for Chief Johnson's comments? Or not.


Replace Johnson
Stanford
on Nov 5, 2008 at 6:44 am
Replace Johnson, Stanford
on Nov 5, 2008 at 6:44 am

Disgusted/Resident--you still do not get--while admitting that some of the perps were caucasian, our chief said that her police will stop all african-americans--REGARDLESS IF THEY MATCH THE DESCRIPTION OR NOT. That is the problem.
She must resign


Allen
Old Palo Alto
on Nov 5, 2008 at 8:56 am
Allen, Old Palo Alto
on Nov 5, 2008 at 8:56 am

There has been a rash of crimes that have our citizens afraid. We have a description of the criminal. Who would have argue with the police chief had she said she instructed her officers to question anyone who fits that description? The fact that she offered that description as part of her explanation of what they were doing should not change our reaction.


Do ew have the stats right?
Charleston Gardens
on Nov 5, 2008 at 10:12 am
Do ew have the stats right?, Charleston Gardens
on Nov 5, 2008 at 10:12 am

I think the white guy thats keep getting mentioned as one of the supsects was arrested already. He was arrested that day as a I recall. He was the guy that tried to cut the ladys finger off at Stanford Mall. I think the rest of the suspect descriptions were all black and hispanic.


bill
Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 5, 2008 at 10:36 am
bill, Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 5, 2008 at 10:36 am

The Chief is doing a fine job. Please move on to a different issue.


update!
Meadow Park
on Nov 5, 2008 at 11:45 am
update!, Meadow Park
on Nov 5, 2008 at 11:45 am

on the indybay independent media site,there is article about a black man was arrested .in short,the black man had a clean record,but the cop said ''im going to arrest you because i dont believe who you say you are''!! read it! police will say youre on drugs and demand to search you sometimes,this happened tto me in santa clara county! like it or not,racial profiling is a reality that many dont want to belive exists


narnia
Midtown
on Nov 5, 2008 at 11:45 am
narnia, Midtown
on Nov 5, 2008 at 11:45 am

This particular post may come to an end but there will be no moving to a different issue because Chief Johnson made her comments into a PD policy.


Not a policy of PAPD
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 5, 2008 at 3:01 pm
Not a policy of PAPD, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 5, 2008 at 3:01 pm

The chief’s comments were awful. She isn't much of a leader and obviously a terrible public speaker. But please know, what she described (that she had directed officers to racially profile) never happened. She never directed any officers to do that nor would any of the officers even follow such a directive. Please don't confuse the men and woman of the department who go to work everyday trying to the right thing with the racist and insensitive comments made by the person who happens to be Chief. With any luck she will be gone soon.


long time PA Black resident
Barron Park
on Nov 5, 2008 at 3:19 pm
long time PA Black resident, Barron Park
on Nov 5, 2008 at 3:19 pm

You can support the police chief and still find her comments offensive/ disturbing. The PAPD seems to do a fine job to me, but being born & raised here, I have bad memories as a kid where my Black father was stopped just for being Black and walking along Los Robles with my White mother. They are (still) just a regular couple but on more than one occsion, my dad has been stopped and questioned because of the color of his skin. It's NOT okay for the police chief, as a public figure, to say publically, all Black males should be stopped and questioned about these assaults. They are terrifying and we all want them stopped. I don't like going out on long walks by myself or with my daughter as much any more since they've been happening. But just even as you can see by the long number of posts on this issue, we can't just 'get over it' and move on to the next issue. Race is a huge, uncomfortable issue for lots of us posting here, White, Black, Brown, Yellow, Undecided, None of the Above... And that's true in our country in general. So support the police or not, everyone on the string here should agree that making a generalization like "any black male" is going to offend a lot of people and cause more heart ache than help. (If you disagree with that statement, why is this thread so long? Even if you are not offended, clearly lots of people are....)


Mark
Midtown
on Nov 5, 2008 at 4:26 pm
Mark, Midtown
on Nov 5, 2008 at 4:26 pm

I trust our chief, it is a tough situation. We want a safe community and she is doing her best to accomplish that.
If there are green colored people with red hair that have been identified doing violent crime in our area, we should look for those that fit the description. If no community members come forward with information, an avenue to get leads on the assailants is talking to the green people who are in the area.
Without any malice or racial profiling we need to find those that make our streets unsafe.

Good job chief Johnson.


To Mark
Menlo Park
on Nov 5, 2008 at 4:58 pm
To Mark, Menlo Park
on Nov 5, 2008 at 4:58 pm

The reality is, there are no green people w/red hair, much less committing violent crimes. The issue is truly that Johnson's focus was on the black suspects, with no info given on the white ones. If she had good reason to not focus on the white suspect(s),and good reason to overly focus on the black ones, then she should have said so, with as much clarification as possible. Instead, she hyper-focused on black suspects and how her dept. would stop people. There is good reason for blacks to be upset and concerned. I'm white, not a suspect of these crimes and find her comments disturbing and unnecessary.

So now, added to the list of finding the robbers, is having the mess she caused cleaned up, and it involved lots of time, energy and money.
We all know there are ways to question and catch criminals without overly disturbing innocents who may somewhat match a suspect description.

All of Palo Alto should want a chief who's a better communicator and engenders trust of her citizens and of *anyone* in her community, whether or not they're a resident.


TIERRA
East Palo Alto
on Nov 6, 2008 at 10:21 am
TIERRA, East Palo Alto
on Nov 6, 2008 at 10:21 am

ARE YOU GUYS SERIOUS! HER STATEMENT WAS UNCALLED FOR! NO MATTER WHAT RACE YOU ARE YOU SHOULD SEE THAT AND TO SAY SHE IS HERE TO PROTECT OUR STREETS HOW CAN WE TRUST HER IF SHE CAN MAKE STATEMENTS LIKE SO. NO MATTER WHAT COLOR YOU ARE NO ONE PERSON LOOKS THE SAME UNLESS THEY ARE TWINS SO TO SAY YOU ARE GOIN TO PULL OVER EVERY BLACK PERSON IS RIDICULOUS. KEEP OUR STREETS SAFE BY GETTING RACIST PPL LIKE HER OUT OF OUR SYSTEM OR SHOULD WE JUST WAIT UNTIL SHE USES THE "N" WORD!!!!! B/C THATS NEXT


JustMe
Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 6, 2008 at 11:16 am
JustMe, Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 6, 2008 at 11:16 am

TIERRA, please stop the hysterical yelling. No one has used "the N word", and we certainly cannot condem anyone for that. I dount it will come to that.


narnia
Midtown
on Nov 6, 2008 at 12:23 pm
narnia, Midtown
on Nov 6, 2008 at 12:23 pm

In the Chief's words " round up the usual suspects" is quite valid. She is handing over to her officers a very difficult directive and someone will inevitably take it to its face value. What I would like to know now from Chief Johnson is what is going to happen when an officer wants to engage in "consensual" contact and the person contacted refuses as it is his or her right?
The answer to this is as important as the Chief's directive. I am hoping that the Chief directs her officers to accept no for an answer. No is not a suspicious answer, it's just I don't want to talk to you. For those who say that if you aren't doing anything wrong why are you refusing? there is a two part answer. Firstly, "wrong" doesn't mean according to the person stopped, it may just be as something the officer considers suspicious according to directives like "you don't belong here" as if blacks and hispanics are lawfully excluded from Palo Alto....secondly, it is actually none of the officer's business why the "stopee" doesn't want contact- late for the train, absorbed in her thoughts, etc, a no is a no.
Legally, I have the right to say no. Let us see what directive the Chief's uses if she doesn't like the answer.
I have always supported my local police force (though a tiny bad apple minority I don't, of course) and I cannot think of a time in which such inflammatory remarks can be so inappropriate. The majority of the 1st degree offenses in this town in the last few years were committed by white residents. Shouldn't the police Chief of a "no ordinary small town" with low crime know how to police without confrontation with those minorities who either live or pass through town? Shouldn't this town give its population a police Chief that is worthy of its good police force ?


mark
Midtown
on Nov 6, 2008 at 12:58 pm
mark, Midtown
on Nov 6, 2008 at 12:58 pm

Bottom line: If the suspects are ddescribed and a profile is established go for what fits the profile. I would not be questioning people who DO NOT FIT the profile.

Good job chief!!!


narnia
Midtown
on Nov 6, 2008 at 2:12 pm
narnia, Midtown
on Nov 6, 2008 at 2:12 pm

Mark is right.
Just being black doesn't mean the profile fits. Someone who's described as "
17 to 20 years old, 5 feet 8 inches tall and about 180 pounds and African-American. He was wearing a cloth cap and dark clothing" fits a specifc profile. Any black man who looks about 17-20 years old and about 5 feet 4 inches and about 140 pounds DOESN'T fit the profile
( anybody can just throw away the cap and turn a piece of clothing inside out). So, why stop all males 17-20? Or why stop all black males in their 20's? Are they all guilty just because they are black. The profile must fit, all the elements of the profile.


Carla
Downtown North
on Nov 6, 2008 at 3:01 pm
Carla, Downtown North
on Nov 6, 2008 at 3:01 pm

This is a rediculous situation!

As a business owner in downtown Palo Alto, I beg for the police to be PROACTIVE and not REACTIVE. Once crimes happen, what the darn point of having the a policing body. All we need are judges and prisons, which we have plenty of. Please allow the Police to do their job!

And stop this ridiculous notion that the Police is racist. People just want to fight and argue with each other. Go home. At the moment it be being burglurized, --and since the police can't do a darn thing, you can pay the price.


Resident
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 6, 2008 at 5:16 pm
Resident, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 6, 2008 at 5:16 pm

And in the meantime, there has been another daytime mugging.


Chris
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 7, 2008 at 10:22 am
Chris, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 7, 2008 at 10:22 am

Since a majority of the unsolved crimes in Palo Alto were undoubtedly committed by white men, police officers should stop and question every white man they come across so we can start eliminating suspects in these unsolved crimes.

Anyone that thinks it's okay for police officers to stop and question all black males is just plain racist. I'm willing to bet that the percentage of black Palo Alto residents with criminal records is much less than the percentage of white Palo Alto residents with criminal records.

When last was a crime committed by a white 6 ft, 200 pound male charged to all white males in Palo Alto?


Anonymous
Downtown North
on Nov 7, 2008 at 6:07 pm
Anonymous, Downtown North
on Nov 7, 2008 at 6:07 pm

Okay, clearly what the Chief said was not acceptable but is she or the police of Palo Alto guilty of racial profiling? How many cases have been brought against the Chief? How many has she or the police force been found guilty of?

Hmm...this will probably end with Palo Alto having to let the Chief go with a nice big package. And we pay again!


Mark
Palo Alto High School
on Nov 8, 2008 at 12:16 pm
Mark, Palo Alto High School
on Nov 8, 2008 at 12:16 pm

you do what you need to do to stop the crime.

her intentions were fine

someone above questioned if the suspects were describe as old people with canes whether she would start stopping every old person on the streets. And I think she would. She is being completely practical in her decision making.

I think if a black person who lives in Palo alto were to get robbed they would begin to understand where everyone is coming from. Stop pitying yourselves its for the good of the community.


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