Palo Alto police chief may run for county sheriff | January 14, 2022 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

News - January 14, 2022

Palo Alto police chief may run for county sheriff

Robert Jonsen pulls papers to form campaign committee, weighs challenge to Laurie Smith

by Gennady Sheyner

Palo Alto Police Chief Robert Jonsen is considering entering the race to replace Santa Clara Court Sheriff Laurie Smith, a six-term incumbent who is fending off accusations of corruption and misconduct.

Jonsen, who has been working as Palo Alto's police chief since January 2018, on Tuesday pulled papers to form a committee to run for sheriff. He told this publication, however, that he has not yet made a final decision about whether to enter the race.

"I think there is a need for change, and I think my background and my position makes me well suited for that," Jonsen said.

Jonsen said he expects to decide in the coming days whether to enter the race.

If he runs, Jonsen will be joining a race that also includes Kevin Jensen, who worked in the Sheriff's Office between 1985 and 2013, retiring as a captain, and Christine Nagaye, who is currently a sergeant in the Sheriff's Office, where she has worked for 19 years. Also running is Dave Knopf, who formerly worked as assistant chief in the San Jose Police Department.

As a candidate, Jonsen would bring more than three decades of law-enforcement experience into the race. He served in the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Office for 26 years, working his way up to captain's rank, before he left southern California to become police chief in Menlo Park in 2013. He was hired as police chief in Palo Alto in November 2017 and began his job two months later.

The race comes at a tumultuous time for Smith, who last December was the subject of a scathing complaint from the Santa Clara County Grand Jury. The grand jury issued seven counts of alleged misconduct against Smith, which included allegations that her office mishandled mentally ill inmates in county jails, resulting in the death of one inmate and millions of dollars in settlements. She has also been accused of engaging in a bribery scheme that involved issuance of concealed-carry-firearm permits to political donors.

On Aug. 31, the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors unanimously passed a vote of "no confidence" against Smith. The supervisors cited "ethical violations" within her office, repeated "malfeasance and/or negligence in the county jails" and her obstruction of efforts to improve transparency.

The election will be held on June 7.

Email Staff Writer Gennady Sheyner at [email protected]


Posted by felix
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 13, 2022 at 12:38 am

felix is a registered user.

He’s not qualified for Sheriff with his record.
Jonsen can’t control the unreasonable use of force in his own police department.
This is bizarre.
We need a credible candidate to replace Laurie Smith.
And we need a Chief who will clean up the PAPD.

Posted by White Senior fears Palo Alto Police
a resident of Professorville
on Jan 13, 2022 at 11:50 am

White Senior fears Palo Alto Police is a registered user.

Felix is spot on. Jonson does not belong in the Sheriff's position nor in Palo Alto. We need a new police chief here that will get rid of officers that use unreasonable force, will show transparency, not encrypted radio, or limiting reporters from questioning officers etc. etc. etc.

Palo Alto taxpayers money is needed elsewhere rather than paying for PAPD misdeeds.

Posted by Michele Dauber
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 13, 2022 at 3:12 pm

Michele Dauber is a registered user.

In 2019, this story ran in the Palo Alto Weekly: Web Link

Since that time, the only serious substantive consequences for the officers involved or the Police Department, or City staff is that they have made it harder for victims to obtain communications such as the dispatch calls with police that were informative in this matter.

Chief Jonsson has presided over a department that has paid millions in settlements to victims like this victim, who did not sue but chose to take the matter to the press instead in the vain hope that exposure would force changes. Sadly our City Council is terrible, weak, and useless and so far as the public knows nothing happened. Jonsson is still in his job, as is Ed Shikada.

Should Jonsson take the ill advised step of running for Sheriff, I am sure that this case involving the PAPD and others will become widely discussed matters of public concern, as they should be.

From the story:
"It was one of many actions by the police during the incident that violated city policy, including an unexplained five minute stop by the responding officer three blocks from the woman's house, the absence of body-worn camera footage of a police sergeant, missing GPS data for the sergeant's patrol car, a search of the woman's house and the sharing of confidential information about the incident by a police officer with her spouse, who then conveyed it to others.

For more than two months, the Weekly as well as the woman and her husband have sought answers from the city about the handling of the incident. City staff initially refused to disclose any information, forcing the family to engage an attorney for help. Eventually, the city provided some, but not all, time-stamped police audio and body-worn camera video, fire dispatch tapes and logs, recordings of the 911 call and fire department reports."

Posted by No heat
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Jan 13, 2022 at 3:45 pm

No heat is a registered user.

I'll be taking a very serious look at the other candidates. We can most likely do far better than Jonsen, who has failed to reign in a culture of racism and needless brutality against minorities by the PAPD.

Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 14, 2022 at 7:45 am

Annette is a registered user.

I agree with each of the above posts; have had concerns about this chief for quite some time.

Editor: PLEASE return the like button so that readers have that avenue for weighing in on important community issues such as this.

Posted by mjh
a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 14, 2022 at 4:08 pm

mjh is a registered user.

It would be one way for Palo Alto to get rid of him!

Posted by Kirsten Lakin
a resident of another community
on Jan 16, 2022 at 2:15 pm

Kirsten Lakin is a registered user.

As a Saratoga resident whose neighborhood is patrolled by the Santa Clara County Sheriff's Department, the preceding comments by Palo Alto residents speaks volumes and it appears that the current PAPD Chief of Police leaves something to be desired.

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