Officers burst into home of community leader | March 14, 2007 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

News - March 14, 2007

Officers burst into home of community leader

Gertrude Wilks upset because no one explained what happened

by Don Kazak

Gertrude Wilks heard a knock on the door of her East Palo Alto home Feb. 10.

Before the 80 year old could get to the front door, however, a group of police, probation and parole officers burst through and rushed past her.

"They were heading for the bedrooms," said Wilks, who added that at her age she doesn't move quickly. She got out of the way to avoid being knocked over, she said.

The officers were looking for Wilks' 27-year-old grandson, who lives with her and is on probation.

The officers, as many as 10, Wilks said, were doing a sweep of homes where people on probation and parolees live. It's part of an anti-crime crackdown started Jan. 20 by East Palo police and other agencies.

Wilks was upset enough by the experience to speak before the East Palo Alto City Council last week. She is angry no one took the time to explain to her what the police and probation officers were doing in the Saratoga Street house where she has lived since 1952.

"They didn't show any consideration," Wilks said of the officers.

Police Chief Ron Davis said one East Palo Alto officer was among those who went to Wilks' house on Feb. 10. The rest were parole and probation officers, along with one Palo Alto officer.

"I wouldn't have said anything (to the council) if someone had explained it to me," Wilks said.

Davis, who didn't know the details of what happened, said the incident may be helpful for others in the city to know about.

"We have a lot of guys coming back (from prison) to their grandparents," Davis said. "But do they realize the rights they are waiving?"

Police, probation and parole officers can enter the home of any parolee or person on probation at any time.

Wilks said she now understands what happened and why. But she is still miffed at how she was treated in her own home, with no one offering an explanation.

Wilks served 11 years on the Municipal Advisory Council that existed before East Palo Alto incorporated in 1983. She headed the advisory council for three years, akin to being the city's mayor in those days.

"As a senior, I felt very abused," Wilks said. "Let me know what you're trying to do."

Senior Staff Writer Don Kazak can be e-mailed at


Posted by tamika dawson, a resident of Midtown
on Oct 26, 2007 at 5:22 pm

this is my grandmother, and she was scared,and abused you don't rush pass a 80 year old senior. what if she would have fell, would the east palo alto officers have helped her back up, or would she have had a massive heart attack because she was bumrushed? think about. she is still with us today, and i love her to death, take the time to amire the seniors. she was the mayor before east palo alto even got incorporated, and you guys treat her like this, come on.
God don't like ugly!
Tamika Dawson
22, Gertrude wilks grandaugher.

Posted by Citizen, a resident of Midtown
on Oct 26, 2007 at 9:32 pm

The EPA schools seem to be maintaining high standards.

Posted by trudy, a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 27, 2007 at 5:05 am

What the heck were they looking for? Did they have any reason to believe something was wrong, or were they just out to make people's lives miserable?

Posted by Common Sense, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 27, 2007 at 11:35 am

Funny, not one word about the grandson who put her in this position. It is a situation that he created with his criminal conduct. Maybe we should focus on his lack of respect that he had for his entire family when he was committing crimes. It sounds like the EPAPD were conducting a search which they had the authority to do. I am sure that the situation was very stressful, especially for a senior citizen. I'm also sure that it's stressful for the officers who have no idea what they might run into when they're doing this type of dangerous work. If you and your family want to avoid these situations, I suggest you tell the grandson to complete his probation without getting in trouble, and stop committing crimes. Otherwise there is always going to be difficult situations for your family to deal with.

Posted by LaPria Wilks, a resident of Midtown
on Jul 26, 2008 at 1:37 pm

Im am also Mrs. Wilks granddaughter and since my sister chose not to mention the circumstances in which my brother...the 27 year old was involved...i will. My brother was not registered at her address but had been there a couple nights, and despite his crimes that does not give the policew the right to barge in, the law gives them authority to inspect the house when ever they want, but theres something we call common courtesy and they failed to respect that. So therefore my grandmother didnt waive any rights because she did not sign for his release to her home, and even though she didnt, had they told her what their intent was or even given her time to open the door, she would have cooperated. My grandmother has been fully cooperative with the police for as long as i can remember. Theres a difference between doing your job and being an ass, which the police force has mastered.

Posted by Too bad, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Jul 26, 2008 at 1:47 pm

I would expect that the folks in EPA would support their police, given the crime situation they face. Sounds like they both need all the help they can get.

Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 26, 2008 at 2:52 pm

Let's look at this another way.

Suppose someone on parole had committed a crime and believed someone we shall call suspect X had committed this crime. Perhaps this suspect X was not at his registered address and was hiding out with another family member. Suppose the police were looking for him to clear him of this crime or to prevent him running off and committing another crime. Suppose suspect X was the recent killer of a murder victim. Suppose those police waited too long after ringing the doorbell of the family relative and he got away and then killed someone else. Would the feelings of sympathy be the same as for this case?

We do not know why the police wanted to find the grandson, but it is possible that in cases like this that time is of the essence and they had to move in a hurry.

I have no idea of the details of this grandson, but I do know that we have a killer on the loose. I would not want that killer to get away from the police because they were too slow checking up on a lead.

I have sympathies for the lady in this case, but I hope that the situation was explained to her afterwards and if she had been pushed over or anything else that the necessary help was offered her. But, the police have a job to do and sometimes they have to do it in a hurry.

Posted by Pamela Hogan, a resident of South of Midtown
on Nov 15, 2014 at 11:26 am

I just saw this article when conducting a search for Gertrude Wilks. This is one incredible woman I remember from 1967-1969. She was a community leader who loved kids of ALL colors. She had to become an advocate when high school students were bussed to mine from her community.

Tamika Dawson, I read your post and wanted to cry. How dare them not give your grandmother the courtesy and respect she so deserves from all her work over the years. Knowing her as I do, she would never condone lawlessness and the authorities should have simply gone to her and talked FIRST. That should have been their mission that day. Ignorant of her history, they made a grave error. Please tell her I remember her well. I was a student at Cubberley high school and graduated in 1969. We all respected and admired her!

Posted by village fool, a resident of another community
on Nov 15, 2014 at 11:56 am

@Pamela Hogan

Thank you for your caring post.

Reading your comment reminded me of the Wave experiment which took place in Cubberley, 1967.

The teacher, Ron Jones was not tenured. Was let go.

Sadly, I think that the story is still very relevant. I doubt the atmosphere that enabled that experiment has changed much. link - Web Link

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