City has no Black police officers after sergeant retires | November 12, 2021 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

News - November 12, 2021

City has no Black police officers after sergeant retires

Police cite industry-wide recruitment challenges, shortage of applicants

by Gennady Sheyner

When Sgt. Adrienne Moore retired from the Palo Alto Police Department last month after 24 years of service, the city lost a versatile veteran with experience as a detective, a police dispatcher, a field training officer and a patrol officer who had worked every shift.

Because of her unusual dual role as both an officer and a dispatcher, she routinely topped the city's list of highest paid employees, netting more than $100,000 in overtime in some years.

At times the spotlight wasn't particularly flattering, as in June 2019, when she served as a supervisor during a botched emergency call in the Barron Park neighborhood in which it took responders more than 40 minutes to transfer a woman who was suffering a seizure to a hospital. Attempts by the Weekly to investigate the incident were complicated by the fact that Moore's body camera was turned off during the incident —in violation of department policy.

Yet her departure, which the City Council recognized this week with a special resolution in Moore's honor, also represents an unfortunate milestone for the Police Department, leaving it with no Black police officers. This comes at a time when the city is spearheading a "race and equity" initiative that seeks to, among other goals, improve accountability and increase diversity within City Hall.

It also comes at a time when the city is being sued by a group of police officers over a Black Lives Matter mural that the city commissioned last June, which included an image of Assata Shakur in one of its 16 letters spelling out "Black Lives Matter."

While the council's resolution didn't mention the fact that Moore was the department's last Black officer, the fact was not lost on resident Aram James, a former public defender and critic of the department, who urged the agency to do more to attract Black officers. He noted that the last time the department had a Black woman in a leadership role was in 2011, when Lt. Sandra Brown retired from the force.

"Shame on the city of Palo Alto for claiming to have a diverse police force," James told the council immediately after it approved Moore's resolution. "This is the first time in three decades that we've been without an African American officer. That is shameful."

Police Chief Robert Jonsen confirmed the void on Monday. The issue is one that the city is taking seriously, he said, and one that department leadership has discussed with the Human Relations Commission.

"We have been working on that issue for a couple of years and are really trying to enhance our recruiting efforts, especially around minorities," Jonsen said.

Acting Capt. James Reifschneider, who heads the department's recruitment efforts, said that finding candidates has become much more challenging in recent years, with the number of officer applications significantly diminishing industry-wide.

Palo Alto is not immune, he said. It is now receiving less than half the number of officer applications than it did just a few years ago and an even smaller fraction than in decades past, Reifschneider said in an email.

The department has redoubled its efforts, he said, with an emphasis on "attracting a diverse applicant pool that is representative of the community we serve."

"Just in recent months, our recruiters have attended a number of military and collegiate recruiting events and made several presentations to local university and community college classes," Reifschneider said in an email.

"In addition, the Department has engaged in outreach efforts to numerous local collegiate student groups, collegiate athletic departments and faith-based community partners, in an effort to enlist their help in making sure our recruiting message is reaching the broadest possible audience of qualified applicants."

The council took a special interest in the topic of employee diversity last year, when it launched a "Race and Equity" initiative in the aftermath of protests that followed the killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer in May 2020. The effort included revising the Police Department's use-of-force policies and commissioning a history of Black and brown communities in Palo Alto, a project that the Human Relations Commission completed in January. The council also directed staff to conduct a "workforce demographic assessment" and to pursue an employee assessment to measure the city's workforce culture.

In approving the resolution for Moore on Monday, neither the council nor Jonsen had brought up the absence of Black officers in the Police Department, which has about 120 full-time positions. Moore's departure was one of three that the council recognized, along with retirements of Catherine Bourquin, coordinator of recreation programs in the Community Services Department, and building supervisor Hector Sanchez. Council member Greer Stone noted that the city is losing a combined 80 years of knowledge and experience.

Jonsen, who accepted the resolution on Moore's behalf, said at the meeting that her philosophy "has always been about building a better tomorrow."

"Within the halls, she continuously planted seeds of encouragement, motivation and inspiration," Jonsen said of Moore. "For that, Palo Alto will always be the recipient of Sgt. Moore's contributions, for years to come."

James, for his part, suggested that the best way to honor Moore is to improve diversity. The lack of Black officers in the Police Department "leaves a stain" on the agency's leadership, he said.

"I think it would be a testament to Sgt. Moore that we carry out her legacy by doing everything we could to recruit more Black female officers," James said.

Email Staff Writer Gennady Sheyner at [email protected]


Posted by felix
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 10, 2021 at 5:46 pm

felix is a registered user.

The pathetic wrong-headed lawsuit over the BLM mural sure isn’t going to help recruit African Americans to the PAPD.

By the way - Former Sgt. Wayne Benitez goes on trial in SJ Superior Court Dec. 6 for ramming a handcuffed, non-resisting Latino man’s head into a windshield, and not reporting his use of force.

What if anything has happened to all those other officers who stood around Alvarez but never intervened, then covered up for Benitez for a year and a half till a private video surfaced?

Posted by Nayeli
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 10, 2021 at 11:28 pm

Nayeli is a registered user.

@felix - As a Hispanic woman, Gustavo Alvarez is lucky that I was not on any of the juries in any of trials for any of his crimes in his long criminal record. While REAL police violence is wrong, so is resisting arrest and, yes, antagonizing officers who were doing their jobs.

Posted by John
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Nov 11, 2021 at 6:10 am

John is a registered user.

Black officers likely don’t celebrate murals with cop killers in them, no matter how much the local populace feels they should. They likely have greater objections to the pay/housing ratio and captains who call them n****** and yet are still employed.

Posted by Jennifer
a resident of another community
on Nov 11, 2021 at 8:31 am

Jennifer is a registered user.

Does the race of the police officer really matter? Can't they just be officers and suspects? And for those who think that race does matter, I remember a black LAPD officer telling me at a LAPD barbeque that black officers are harder on black suspects than non-black officers. I was a college student who lacked life experience, and I had no idea if this was true. Through the years, I have read that black officers are more likely to shoot black suspects, but those stories aren't covered.

My take? Quit committing crimes, and if you are foolish enough, cooperate with the police.

Posted by Grateful
a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 11, 2021 at 9:24 am

Grateful is a registered user.

The article states that PAPD is trying to “ attract a diverse applicant pool that is representative of the community we serve.” So what are the numbers of Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Indian, Middle Eastern, and Jewish officers on the force since they make up a big portion of the community? I agree with John that Black recruits probably don’t want to work for a police department that protects and promotes officers (Captain Perron) that calls them racist, derogatory names.

Posted by What Will They Do Next
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 11, 2021 at 11:31 am

What Will They Do Next is a registered user.

Another attempt to create a problem where none exists. I'm sure the PAPD doesn't turn away Black recruits. Perhaps there aren't any interested in the job and if that's the case what do you want PAPD to do? And as a previous commenter said, there are many other underrepresented groups on the list. Where's the "shame" over that fact?

Posted by Rusty Taylor
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Nov 11, 2021 at 11:45 am

Rusty Taylor is a registered user.

Jennifer brought up a good point. It's not about the skin color of a police officer but rather an ability to uphold the law.

And black police officers often have to prove their 'street cred' to white superior officers by taking it out on people of color.

quote: "So what are the numbers of Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Indian, Middle Eastern, and Jewish officers on the force since they make up a big portion of the community?"

^ The majority of these ethnic groups tend to pursue higher educational opportunities and do not opt for demeaning job opportunities in law enforcement. Most of them pursue their advanced college degrees outside of places like Cal State University East Bay in Hayward.

When was the last time you heard of any PAPD officer with a Bachelor's degree from Stanford or UC Berkeley?

All it takes is a community college degree in Law Enforcement and some additional time at the police academy firing range.

The junior college cadets monitoring campus parking lots and former enlisted military personnel are your future law enforcement officers and the majority of them will always be white.

It comes with the territory and mentality.

Posted by Dobbs
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 11, 2021 at 1:12 pm

Dobbs is a registered user.

[Post removed.]

Posted by TimR
a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 11, 2021 at 1:18 pm

TimR is a registered user.

It sounds like the PAPD is doing all it can to get a new black officer, but the efforts haven't worked yet. So how is that their fault? It's takes two to Tango.

Posted by Resident
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 11, 2021 at 4:31 pm

Resident is a registered user.

What a racist article about a tired,subjective non-issue. Enough generalizing based on skin color! I would expect higher discourse from a Palo Alto newspaper that's more insightful than this trendy, hollow pandering BS.

Posted by Barbt
a resident of another community
on Nov 11, 2021 at 5:17 pm

Barbt is a registered user.

Why does race have to play a factor? How about just make it about hiring candidates who will be professional, do his/her/their job to uphold the law with the oath that they take to do so? It’s difficult to find people who want to be police officers with all the negativity towards the profession. PAPD has a great workforce and they work hard to recruit, but how can the community they serve see that when this local news outlet always puts a negative spin on everything, worst of all suggesting there are internal racial reasons for not hiring Black officers. Wake up people! Recruiting is at an all time low across the country…think about why. Go on a ride-along, talk to your community’s officers, learn what it takes to work in law enforcement before you assume you have all of the answers. PAPD, keep your heads high and be safe out there!

Posted by Grateful
a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 11, 2021 at 6:03 pm

Grateful is a registered user.

@ Rusty Taylor

“When was the last time you heard of any PAPD officer with a Bachelor’s degree from Stanford or UC Berkeley?”

-Believe it or not, Rusty, there are many well-educated college graduates on the PAPD police force, including from Stanford. I know people who graduated from UC Berkeley and UC Davis who are police officers. Some have master’s degrees or higher who pursue careers in law enforcement. There have even been cases where lawyers and other professionals who left
their jobs to become full time cops. It is not a demeaning job only reserved for non-college graduates and Military veterans, like many people falsely believe. Some PDs actually require a Bachelor’s Degree as part of their hiring requirement. I have the utmost respect for our police officers. They are NOT dumb or stupid.

Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 11, 2021 at 9:08 pm

Anonymous is a registered user.

I don’t think skin color should be a factor in hiring.

Posted by III
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 13, 2021 at 8:03 am

III is a registered user.

So what? Does it really matter? Is it a fault?
Are the doors closed to minorities seeking police employment?
Not to mention, are not whites becoming a minority in Palo Alto?
BTW, Police and Fire retirement packages are FABULOUS!!! A
ll of them get promoted to Captain, for Captain pay in retirement. Look into that!
God Bless them when we need them in our time of emergency/needs.
But FYI, I have worked 35yrs, our firm has no pension plans.
Thank God I saved in my 401k plan and personal accounts.
Even then, will not really equal a 15yr Captain retirement plan.

Posted by Bystander
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 13, 2021 at 8:41 am

Bystander is a registered user.

As others have said, this is not anything we should be looking at in these terms.

MLK wanted a time when we could be judged by the content of our character rather than the color of our skin. It seems to me to be about time we started doing that.

Posted by Michael Weiss
a resident of Menlo Park
on Nov 13, 2021 at 12:23 pm

Michael Weiss is a registered user.

Retired Superior Court Judge LaDoris Cordell would make an excellent PAPD Commissioner...someone above the Chief of Police to ensure that racial equality and fairness towards all arrestees are carried out to the fullest extent of existing laws.

Lastly, the color of a police officer's skin is irrelevant providing they are not bigots catering to a white supremacist mentality.

Posted by staying home
a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 17, 2021 at 9:58 am

staying home is a registered user.

if this was happening in a the public sector, the hiring practices would be reviewed for why they are excluding blacks. HR would be held accountable and policies for recruiting/interviewing/hiring would be scrutinized for bias. combine this comment section from the NY Op-Ed article and you have a wonderful picture of what this town has become.

Posted by Say something positive
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 20, 2021 at 4:14 pm

Say something positive is a registered user.

Palo Alto Animal Control officers also work for PAPD and are often overlooked. Ofc. Jeannette Washington has served for nearly 25 years in Palo Alto. Yes, she’s female and Black/Asian American, but that’s not what makes her worthy of recognition. She deserves commendation for her hard work, dedication, kindness, and compassion. She’s a great role model for the rest of the police department.

Posted by Jack Peterson
a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 22, 2021 at 12:32 pm

Jack Peterson is a registered user.

Is the City of Palo Alto and PAPD actually practicing discrimination or is it because very few African-Americans actually apply for the position of law enforcement officer?

Posted by RDR
a resident of another community
on Nov 22, 2021 at 1:18 pm

RDR is a registered user.

There are under 100 police officers in Palo Alto. 33% of the city is Asian American. Are there 30 Asian American officers? Might be a bigger story!