Embattled Palo Alto Police Chief Lynne Johnson should step down as police chief in the face of a firestorm of protest about her comments relating to how officers relate to minority persons, the Palo Alto Weekly concludes today in an editorial.
The recommendation comes despite Johnson's long history as "a strong advocate for modern policing practices that are respectful of civil liberties" and for "increasing diversity of all kinds within police department's."
"The problem -- why it is essential that Chief Johnson now retire -- is that she has repeatedly fumbled one of her most important job responsibilities: communicating effectively with the public," the editorial states.
It cited earlier communications problems relating to the year-long investigation into alleged embezzlement within the Palo Alto Children's Theatre -- which the Santa Clara County District Attorney's office declined to prosecute -- and a general inability over several years to get information out in a timely manner on significant crimes or hazardous circumstances.
Noting that her 33 years rising through the ranks of the department "should be respected and honored" the Weekly concludes that "there comes a time when flaws become so obvious and circumstances so tangled that new leadership is required -- for the good of the department, the city and the community.
"Sadly, we believe that point was reached last week," the editorial concludes.
The final reference was to a fateful meeting with citizens Thursday night in which Johnson said in response to a question that officers had been instructed to make polite "consensual contact" contact with black men who match other descriptions of men committing a series of strong-arm robberies, including several near Caltrain stations.
Comments in follow-up TV interviews compounded the confusion and news reports nationally characterized her statements as advocating "racial profiling," which is illegal. She has since apologized repeatedly and extensively for her "misspoken" comments, saying they do not reflect her personal beliefs or departmental policy.
Weekly Editor Jay Thorwaldson said the editorial positions are determined by an Editorial Board dialogue that includes a review of relevant information and circumstances. He said the conclusion was difficult personally for him as he has known and respected Johnson since she joined the department in the 1970s as a patrol officer.