Palo Alto City Council members on Monday afternoon said that they still have questions about the police response to a June 3 911 call during which a resident with stroke-like symptoms was kept from receiving medical aid for 14 minutes, but at the same time the council members expressed faith in City Manager Ed Shikada to provide those answers to them.
Mayor Eric Filseth learned about the incident after a phone call from the woman's husband in July, he told the Weekly on Monday, Sept. 23. Filseth said he has had a number of conversations with Shikada and a couple of discussions with City Attorney Molly Stump. Most of those exchanges have focused on decisions made regarding the city's staging protocol.
"There are still a number of unanswered questions," Filseth said, such as "why there is not camera footage from the sergeant (Adrienne Moore)."
On Monday morning he viewed and listened to the body-camera audio and video of the other officer who handled the 911 incident, Officer Yolanda Franco-Clausen.
"Overall, it looks pretty much to me like the emergency responders (police) were trying to diagnose and respond" to the woman, he said, adding that he is not an expert on such matters.
The woman and her husband claim that police overstepped their role on June 3 by trying to assess the woman's condition rather than determining that she posed no harm to the paramedics who were standing by, ready to treat her.
Filseth said he expects an update from Shikada and called the matter "an operational issue." The council's role is to review the policies and procedures and the update from Shikada, and to see if the city staff did what they were supposed to do, he said.
Councilwoman Lydia Kou voiced concern that the council as a whole was not informed about the incident, which she learned about through residents' letters to the council this weekend.
"I have heard very little from staff," she said, during a Monday phone call.
Information about the incident should have come from staff and not from the community, she added. When incidents like this happen, residents are going to look to the council for answers, she added.
After learning about it, Kou said she asked Shikada for details, and he provided her with a summary. Discussions are apparently still ongoing, she said. Kou is scheduling a time with Shikada to look at some of the police video recordings, she said.
The council should have a more direct role in refining some of the policies pertaining to the handling of emergencies like this one, she said.
"Definitely, some procedures should come from the council and be included. There definitely needs to be some direction from the council," she said.
Councilman Tom Dubois said he was first apprised of the situation by the woman's husband. But while he knows the husband's version of the incident, he said he doesn't know the full story from the police and dispatchers.
The city operates under certain constraints related to privacy and legal concerns, he said, regarding Shikada's refusal to allow staff to answer questions by the Weekly. (As for the woman's privacy, she had provided permission to Shikada to discuss her case with the Weekly, however.)
DuBois also said that what the Weekly stated in its Sept. 20 story on the incident regarding the city's lack of responsiveness to its questions differed from the impression he received from Shikada. Dubois said the city manager had indicated to him that he "spoke" with the Weekly.
Filseth noted that Shikada had sent a summary of some of the changes the city's made since the June 3 call to the Weekly in a statement in early September. Part of that statement was published in the Sept. 20 story.
Councilwoman Alison Cormack declined to say in detail what steps she felt the council should take, beyond allowing the city manager to present updates. She also declined to say when staff had apprised her of the incident.
In a brief statement by phone on Monday, she said: "The city manager has carefully reviewed the incident and some changes have already been made to the way our first responders do their work. He will keep the council updated."
At Monday's council meeting, Shikada said that since the June incident, staff has undergone additional training and revised the city's "staging practice," which requires fire crews to wait until police assess the situation before they provide medical services. The staging in the June 3 incident delayed the woman's treatment.
Shikada called the staging practice "an unfortunate byproduct of today's public safety environment where police and fire encounter unpredictable and potentially dangerous situations."
"The city is adjusting its practice to more effectively ensure the approach addresses its goals, and this review is continuing," Shikada said. "Since June, the city has provided additional training for staff, and revised the city staging practice and other protocols to improve our public safety response."
He also said in a statement that was posted on the city's website Monday that the reinforced policy and training only requires staging "when there is clear indication of the risk of harm to city personnel."
"For incidents where emergency dispatch knows or reasonably suspects that violence has occurred, or the potential exists, the call will be dispatched with instructions to both the Police and Fire departments to 'proceed with caution,'" the statement reads.
Dubois said he thinks the city took the issues raised seriously.
"Of course, the council has a role in oversight. ... I think the council should review protocols making sure that people are properly trained," he said.
Council members Liz Kniss, Greg Tanaka and Adrian Fine did not return requests for comment.