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Audit: Most complaints against Palo Alto police 'unfounded'

Original post made on Oct 29, 2009

The majority of citizen complaints against the Palo Alto Police Department last year were unfounded, a new audit has found. But some officers have been less scrupulous when dealing with their colleagues in the department, the report notes.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Thursday, October 29, 2009, 4:13 PM

Comments (30)

Posted by Bill
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 29, 2009 at 5:19 pm

Considering the thousands of interactions with the public these few complaints are remarkedly low. And the two sustained were within the department.

Since police personnel are humans even as thee and me, it's amazing that more inapporpriate behavior does not occur. Obviously their training has been outstanding and constantly being improved as witnessed by the report. Well done Palo Alto. I'm pleased that Mr. Gennaco is doing his job.

There will always be those who hate authority and resent having to comply with rules. So unfounded complaints will continue.

Posted by D.B. COOPER
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 29, 2009 at 6:42 pm

Apparently Gennaco feels the Santa Clara County Judge who found palo alto officers violated Tony Clampi rights was wrong and police were well within department policies. Wow! Sounds like the city of palo alto will be paying out huge sums of money if they follow Gennaco's recommendations. Good luck!

Posted by Nora Charles
a resident of Stanford
on Oct 29, 2009 at 8:35 pm

Hats off to the Palo Alto police. Imagine doing a job where your life is in danger every day-unthinkable for most of us. They do a tremendous job, and deserve our praise and great thanks.

Posted by person who isn't stupid
a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 29, 2009 at 11:29 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by how funny
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Oct 30, 2009 at 5:52 am

Thats almost a year old...what happened since january 2009 till present or at least a month ago. There happens to be something strange about this, i am waiting for my outcome complaint since july. Since my complaint didnt make the cut, PAPD still has work to do....

Posted by Recomender
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Oct 30, 2009 at 6:07 am

I believe the PAPD needs to give Officer Gennaco a raise since he did a great job, since he employed under PAPD. Well, it will not cross me if officer Gennaco comes and works for the PAPD in the near future once this lows over, since we do have better salary to offer than LA county.

Posted by JW
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Oct 30, 2009 at 7:56 am

Also, a big "thank you" to our Police Department; they were asked to forego raises this year to help the City's budget out and they agreed to do so.

Posted by CHinCider
a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 30, 2009 at 8:12 am

To "JW" -

Uh, actually, the Police have withdrawn that offer to forego their raises, since those of them who will be retiring during the coming year demanded the increase so as to add to their base pay for retirement calculations. Your thanks are a little premature.....

Posted by YSK
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 30, 2009 at 10:25 am

Didn't think there was a problem as big as critics made it out to be. Thanks for wasting our money!

Posted by fact-checker
a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 30, 2009 at 11:16 am

To "CHinCider" -

Uh, actually, the fire department's union withdrew its offer to forego its raise.

The police department union did NOT withdraw its offer.

Also, I read a lot about the fire union president speaking on behalf of SEIU at the city council meeting this week. Nothing said about the police union being there. It seems like at least the police union is trying to do the right thing as far as the city budget is concerned.

Posted by Bob
a resident of Community Center
on Oct 30, 2009 at 12:06 pm

> Hats off to the Palo Alto police. Imagine doing a job where
> your life is in danger every day-unthinkable for most of us

You have to be kidding. Palo Alto has (as does most of Santa Clara County) very low violent crime rates. The last Palo Alto officer who died in the line of service was a reserve office who shot himself on the firing range, during a training accident.

Many police officers leave for other cities because there is so little "action" here.

Posted by Anon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 30, 2009 at 12:45 pm

I think the Palo Alto Police in recent years have gotten significantly better. They are professional polite and I have never been stopped needlessly or harassed as was the case several times in a minor way when I was a high school student in the 70's.

I am proud and pleased at the Palo Alto Police department and there are going to be weird goofy things that happen such as the two mentioned incidents between officers. Sending out the email is pretty minor. Most computer users are told over and over to log out of their email when they are gone, and sending out a prank email is one of the ways some people deal with trying to emphasize that to people. I'm not saying it was right, but I am relieved that these things are fairly minor.

I do have to say that I have been courteously stopped late at night for traffic checks ... never gotten a ticket. That is OK with me if it is polite, I think it is good that Police check people who they think for whatever reason may be driving drunk ... there should be a real reason though. When stopped it is really unpleasant to have spotlights shone in your mirror and eyes and I can sympathize with one of the complaints, but that is fairly minor as well.

And tricking the guy out of his car? That is pretty laughable. Sounds like he was drunk and disorderly ... but I don't know the facts. It seems reasonable if he was going to be arrested that he be gotten out of the car, and tricking him is better than tazing him in the car and using force.

All in all, congratulations to the Palo Alto Police for professionalism and a job well done.


Posted by Anon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 30, 2009 at 12:49 pm


Just because there is a low history of violence or threats to Police Officers in Palo Alto does not mean in one day we could not have something such as the incident where multiple officers were shot by a crazy lunatic at a traffic stop. Of course they risk their lives every day, every traffic stop. You attitude is not very understanding. As to the police who leave to get more "action" somewhere else ... those are the people who are probably not suited to the Police Service. Bay Area cops used to make their own action 30-40 years ago, thank God we have a better service now. They really are pretty outstanding from my experience and contact with them.

Posted by Bill
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 30, 2009 at 1:14 pm

Bob. I believe the officer who died was a reserve who was shot by a Mt. View police officer during a training accident. He did not shoot himself.

I think Anon has it right.

Posted by Bob
a resident of Community Center
on Oct 30, 2009 at 1:17 pm

> Of course they risk their lives every day,
> every traffic stop.

The number of police killed in the US every year is very low .. so the risk at traffic stops is very low--

Web Link

Based on preliminary data, the groups found that 140 law enforcement officers were killed in 2008 -- 86 of them accidentally and 54 intentionally.

"Fewer officers were killed by gunfire in 2008 than in any year since 1956," the report says. "Preliminary data indicate 41 officers died in firearms-related incidents this year, compared with 68 in 2007, a reduction of 40 percent."

The US BLS (Bureau of Labor Statistics) reports that being a lumber jack or a crew member of a fishing boat is far more dangerous than being a police officer. The 2008 stats from the CNN (actually FBI-released data) make that point in spades.

While anything is possible, the reality is that very few police officers die in the line-of-duty each year in the US.

(By the way, the number of firefighters that die on the job is about 100 a year. About 2/3rds of those die of from traffic accidents, going to/from a fire site, or from heart attacks/strokes coming from these people living a sedentary life style. On average, fewer than 40 US firefighters die each year actually fighting fires.)

> You attitude is not very understanding.

Of what, gobbledygook?

Posted by CHinCider
a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 30, 2009 at 1:34 pm

To "fact-checker" -

You need to live up to your screen name and check your facts!

Yes, the Fire Department did withdraw their offer FIRST, because the City would not agree to their demand that no changes in medical benefits be made for any other bargining unit (read SEIU). Prety audacious, huh - trying to bargin for more than your own group.

Police had initially agreed to POSTPONE their raise for one year by extending their contract for a year - pretty smart tactic, which would lock in their benefits in medical and retirement for another year before any renegotiation could happen - but only recently have very quietly withdrawn their offer due to pressure from their members planning to retire this year, as I correctly described above.

This has recieved very little if any coverage, but is correct.

Check your facts before you post, "Fact-Checker" !

Posted by PAPD is corrupt
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 30, 2009 at 2:13 pm

Recently witnessed a bouncer assault a citizen OUTSIDE of a bar downtown for smoking on the sidewalk outside the bar. PAPD showed up and wanted to arrest the victims.
After witnesses corroborated the story of the victim and asked to press charges against the assailant (the bouncer) PAPD refused to do so. Their reasoning was that the bouncer wanted to press charges against the victim and thus the desire to press charges by both parties "cancelled each other out".

PAPD can be helpful, but they are also a joke.

Posted by Anon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 30, 2009 at 7:50 pm

Bob, you sound like a smoker ... someone who ignores a lethal risk and thinks nothing of it. Either that or you will say anything to press a losing point. Officers face physical risk, injury and death every day. Does it matter if it doesn't happen regularly. Would you admire the Police more if they got hurt more often?

As far as the bouncer, he was probably trying to keep dirty smokers from fouling the air by the establishment that he works for. Perfect understandable and professional ... the police as usual did the thoughtful and right thing. Who wants to have to walk through some rude person's cigarette smoke to walk into an establishment? Maybe they should foot the bill for lost business?

Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Oct 30, 2009 at 7:51 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by josef
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 30, 2009 at 10:12 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by Anon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 30, 2009 at 10:16 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by Stool
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Oct 31, 2009 at 1:43 am

Well, this audit was a joke, i do know that the city is good with the PAPD acting this way, but there are bad apples their and need to rid of the problem or i suggest more training. Rookie cops are so eager to please their peers and would take charge for it.

Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Oct 31, 2009 at 1:26 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by Retired
a resident of another community
on Oct 31, 2009 at 1:57 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by ez
a resident of Esther Clark Park
on Oct 31, 2009 at 4:09 pm

cops have it easyu. 6 fugure income,immunity from prosecution,universal love from most americans it seems. or is it fear??

Posted by Anon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 1, 2009 at 12:41 pm

PAPD Observer, thanks for the information. It will be interesting to find out more about that situation and what the Police Department does about it.

However ... does this reflect on the PAPD as a whole and its interactions with the public?

Is this particular incident reflective of the Police Department, as a whole, while they are on the job, of the judgement and actions of one individual?

Are you suggesting that what one officer did is chronic or rampant in the PAPD, and if so do you have any evidence to support that, or intuition or reason to believe there is more to the story? I am not biased either way and would be happy to listen to what you have to say. It does seem that you might be taking the opportunity to try to tar the whole Police Department in Palo Alto based on the actions of one officer, or even the specific failings on individual officers through years , which I do not think is quite fair or justified.

Posted by PAPD Observer
a resident of another community
on Nov 1, 2009 at 12:57 pm

Ir's not that complicated: I said that what Morgan did damaged the rep of your PD. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.] The many good officers in the PAPD are not responsible for the actions of these individuals, but the actions of these individuals have done damage.

While I don't think the actions indicate a chronic or rampant problem, I think having bad apples in this line of work is consistent. Sometimes audits bear that out, sometimes not. But I think it's wrong that these most recent incidents with Morgan were not mentioned in this article.

Posted by PAPD can be corrupt
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 1, 2009 at 2:08 pm

Anon-The PAPD did not do the right thing and probably did not want to damage their relations with a downtown business and/or did not want to do their job/paperwork.

As far as smoking goes, it is a filthy habit, but that does not give the bouncer the right to start punching a citizen in the face repeatedly. That is against the law and a violent crime. Neither understandable nor professional. And is a smoker of cigarettes automatically "rude"?

As far as footing the bill for lost business... HA! The bouncer, and the bar, are lucky if their is not a lawsuit being worked up against them.

The original post was not to say that all of PAPD is corrupt, but they have it way easier that many police departments in terms of the types of calls they respond to. They could at least do the proper job when responding.

Posted by paloaltomarino
a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 1, 2009 at 2:34 pm

The audit findings came as a bit of a surprise to me, although these days, I guess nothing surprises me much. I've worked indirectly with the PAPD for almost 13 years and, I have nothing but, the utmost respect and admiration for them. Sandra Brown and Bob Beacom are two of the finest police officers I've ever met and absolutely make our police department and community better places. Having said that, even those two would admit that there is likely one or two "bad apples".

In a town like Palo Alto where there is not a lot of violent crime their job isn't easier, it's the opposite. One officer recently stopped someone on Embarcadero for speeding (not super fast just the regular speeding almost everyone does on Embarcadero), the man in the car happened to be African-American, and he was pissed, the officer asked "Why are you so angry?", and the African-American man said "you're just stopping me because I'm black". The officer wasn't, but, he took back the ticket and gave a warning instead. On a daily basis they not only get to deal with the black and white of the law, but of the gray areas that are our nation as it relates to race and culture, and they get to deal with the fallout of a few VERY poorly chosen words by their former Police Chief (a good person who made a very bad statement). They also get to deal with the doubt, fear, and outrage in the community when the "bad apple" does something. And they get to do all of this in silence because they aren't allowed to speak their opinions, constrained either by law or policy.

So, when someone, living in their own delusion speaks out (Danielle Martel comes to mind), they can't say a thing.

Do they have work to do in addressing the concerns and healing the community as it relates to their work? They do. And, they will, I, for one, am proud of our Police force.

Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Nov 1, 2009 at 7:37 pm

Hmmm is a registered user.

Web Link

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Why was Tim Morgan's actions not mentioned in this article pertaining to the audit?

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