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Palo Alto police face fresh claim of excessive force

Original post made on Nov 27, 2019

The Palo Alto Police Department was hit this month with a fresh claim of excessive use of force, stemming from a July incident in which a man says he was violently attacked and falsely arrested by a police officer.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, November 27, 2019, 9:55 AM

Comments (38)

54 people like this
Posted by Family Friendly
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 27, 2019 at 10:19 am

This is happening because they caved so fast in the prior settlement. Now every ambulance chaser from around the country will descend on Palo Alto to get a share of the loot.


14 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 27, 2019 at 10:44 am

Posted by Family Friendly, a resident of Old Palo Alto

>> This is happening because they caved so fast in the prior settlement. Now every ambulance chaser from around the country will descend on Palo Alto to get a share of the loot.

Fortunately, we hope, the officers will have been found to have behaved themselves and the case will be dismissed. On the off chance that the complaint is valid, then, sure, another payday. It is unfortunate that big damage awards seem to be the only way to force police departments to solve the problem of police misbehavior.


17 people like this
Posted by out of control police
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 27, 2019 at 10:48 am

Family friendly-- no the city did not cave. When you have a documented example of an out of control police officer-- slamming a handcuffed suspect into a car ( and we will not even discuss the vile homophobia ) you settle out of court.
Perhaps the PAPD needs to stop looking at the NYPD as an example of a police force and then these incidents will not happen. Plus their is a long history of these kind of incidents in Palo ALto.


Like this comment
Posted by Patrick
a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 27, 2019 at 11:34 am


DeStafano and the PAPD were sued by Tyler Harney for using excessive force in 1n 2016 in which the city settled for $250,000. Two police cameras malfunctioned.

Web Link


14 people like this
Posted by Bad Cops cost us all $
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Nov 27, 2019 at 11:41 am

It's time to clean out the ones who cannot obey the law, for they have become the criminals.


13 people like this
Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 27, 2019 at 11:41 am

Did they officers here comport themselves professionally or was there just no video?

I think the City did cave. There should be a difference between apologizing for an
officer's unprofessionalism or incompetence and as fast as possible generously doling
out over half a million dollars to one of the least productive citizens that happens to live
in our town.


5 people like this
Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 27, 2019 at 11:48 am

>> It is unfortunate that big damage awards seem to be the only way to force police departments to solve the problem of police misbehavior.

I agree with you. Why do you think that is? Surely this has gone on long enough and is enough
of a cliche that I am sure almost anyone in Palo Alto if asked would say it is not an effective way
to deal with incompetent police officers who are paid once by the City to do their jobs professionally,
and then are personally left off the hook and sue the same people who tried to hire police that would
treat them right.

Also, I cannot back this up with fact, it is more of a hunch, but I have a feeling that most of these
officers if they were on the side of the people and City of Palo Alto would be able to tell all of us who
they think is the most likely next officer to have these kinds of problems. The incentives are to hide
the problem, sweep it under the rug and lie about it, or ignore it, or make the public hate the victims
for standing up for their rights at a time when they are more viewed as the bad guy. It doesn't mean
they have no rights though.



Does this method of solving problem just ensure that everyone hates the system and never tries
to actually do something to improve it, or discussion the problems?


4 people like this
Posted by Pied Piper
a resident of Gunn High School
on Nov 27, 2019 at 12:14 pm

Pied Piper is a registered user.

@CrescentParkAnon
Let's hope that being one of the less productive citizens is not a factor in police brutality cases, or in determining the size of a settlement when their civil rights are violated.
Everyone, regardless of their level of productivity, deserves to be treated with dignity. And if not, compensated regardless of where they reside -- whether in Crescent Park or elsewhere.


12 people like this
Posted by Roger
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Nov 27, 2019 at 12:15 pm

Respect! Such an easy word to use but one we bandy about regarding our police force who unlike you and I have to deal with the scumbags in our city.
Wouldn’t it be nice to have a police force who say thank you and please during every arrest.
Wouldn’t it be nice if every wrongdoer just said “fair cop, you got me”
Cops are human beings when faced with adversity they tend to react just like you and I.
Maybe we should just remove the adrenaline from police cadets and go from there.


9 people like this
Posted by Bill Simitian
a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 27, 2019 at 12:33 pm

Before you know it Buena Vista will be $1 billion project, the dream of every small time politician.


8 people like this
Posted by Mil
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 27, 2019 at 4:04 pm

This police officer, Destefano, is costing the city dearly. If the Police Department cares about its reputation and its moral obligation toward the residents of Palo alto, they should get rid of the officer. The sooner the better. The Police Department should have a zero tolerance policy for brutality and savagery. Enough is enough!


4 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 27, 2019 at 4:20 pm

There is such a thing as suicide by cop.

Now there is also a thing as run from a cop, get beaten by a cop, get paid for the pain!

Such is life, unfortunately, and we the taxpayers will end up paying!


15 people like this
Posted by Out of control police
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 27, 2019 at 4:24 pm

Roger-- oh come on. Scumbags???? Palo Alto is no crime capital- the police here deal with minor crimes. read the police logs in the daily post. There is no excuse for this out of control behavior. Sounds to me that some of these scumbags are wearing a badge.


6 people like this
Posted by Grandpa
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Nov 27, 2019 at 7:28 pm

Perhaps the officer in question - who has now cost the City nearly a million dollars - should be encouraged to "pursue other opportunities" tout de suite. I certainly don't feel safe with this armed & abusive loose cannon prowling the streets looking for his next victim.


12 people like this
Posted by R. Ortiz
a resident of Menlo Park
on Nov 27, 2019 at 8:11 pm

Why is the Palo Alto PD becoming more like big city police departments (i.e. Los Angeles, Oakland et al) when it comes to abusing citizens?

Is it because of poor recruitment practices?


14 people like this
Posted by Citizen
a resident of Community Center
on Nov 27, 2019 at 8:47 pm

So glad the city and county spent so much money on Buena Vista. We're so lucky to have drug deals going down in there so then our police can shake down people and cost the city more money. So productive! What a great use of our public tax dollars, to keep crime close at hand! Guess the well paid police can more easily justify their fat pay and pensions.


2 people like this
Posted by Roger
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Nov 28, 2019 at 12:29 pm

Out of control police.
Every municipality has its share of scumbags, why would you argue that point.
Think child abuse or rape or murder.
Yep those all happen in our fair city and scumbags is a very gentle description of the perpetrators.
Are the police above the law,of course not but expecting them to behave like saints is just plain counter productive.


7 people like this
Posted by Gus L.
a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 28, 2019 at 1:13 pm

People are going to start lining up in PA to get their beating if they are handing out money like this...


6 people like this
Posted by pearl
a resident of another community
on Nov 28, 2019 at 1:32 pm

pearl is a registered user.

I don't live in Palo Alto, and have never had any contact with PAPD. But I just wanted to say, while there are bad apples in every bunch, the majority of police officers are dedicated to protecting members of their community, and making their community a safe place for all to live. Have any Palo Alto residents taken their concerns directly to the PAPD Chief? He should be made aware of the feelings expressed here by readers. Maybe a community meeting could be called where residents could meet with the Chief and have the opportunity to make their concerns known. Just a thought...


4 people like this
Posted by pmarca
a resident of Stanford
on Nov 29, 2019 at 5:48 am

Given Palo Alto's problems from a housing crisis to limits on office space, this city should not be doing anything to further validate its reputation as being against minorities, low-income, startups and basically anyone who isn't a pre-existing NIMBY.

Bad cops like DeStefano or others who believe it's okay to use excessive force are no different than thugs, gang members or terrorists lurking on our streets.

There should be a zero tolerance policy for police misconduct. Any bad cop should not only be fired, but prosecuted where applicable and have their pension revoked.

GOOD cops only get the credit they deserve when we root out bad cops.


Like this comment
Posted by R. Ortiz
a resident of Menlo Park
on Nov 29, 2019 at 8:30 am

The 'quota system' might have something to do with this as well.

Like traffic citations, law enforcement officers are expected to turn in a reasonable number of vehicle code violations during their shifts or their superiors get suspicious.

The same can be said of arrests. Younger police officers are driven by the number of the arrests they can make during a given period. It's like a sabermetrics-driven competition for cops.

As a result, any minor offense can become a cause for police intervention. The recent roughing-up & arrest of an African-American by BART police for eating an Egg McMuffin while waiting for the train speaks volumes.

The 'numbers game' is giving rise to bad cops further abusing their power & encouraging other ones to sometimes cross the line.


Like this comment
Posted by PA
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 1, 2019 at 1:47 pm

Family Friendly

Your sound pretty privileged by the way you wrote that post, that is all!


5 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 2, 2019 at 1:02 pm

Posted by Citizen, a resident of Community Center

>> Guess the well paid police can more easily justify their fat pay and pensions.

From what I've read, a lot of police departments, including PAPD, have had trouble meeting their recruitment goals and filling all slots. So, I guess, supply-and-demand-wise, their "fat pay" may not be enough. (I am in favor of forward-funding all compensation, including pay, health and other benefits, and pensions, and outsourcing the management of that compensation, so that the true cost is visible.) But, in all honesty, if I were advising a young person, I would tell them to become a fireman, not a policeman. The pay is better (see the Palo Alto city employees salary list), and, everybody loves you. It can be a tough job being a policeman. When everything is going well, it is boring, but, you have to stay vigilant, and then, when there is trouble, you have to keep your cool. It isn't for everybody.


10 people like this
Posted by Family Friendly
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 2, 2019 at 4:41 pm

@Anon: I've known a few folks in federal and local law enforcement over the years. Honestly, it sounds like a horrible, thankless job, dealing with the coldest sociopaths and dregs of society day after day. The stories they tell would curdle your blood.

Whatever they're paid, it's not enough.


10 people like this
Posted by john
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 3, 2019 at 12:34 am

Julio has a long and illustrious history in Palo Alto- drugs, theft, domestic violence. When he doesn't want to be lawfully stopped, perhaps rather than grab him, DeStefano should have stamped his foot and said, "I really mean it!!" If the citizens want him and his ilk left alone, I'm sure that's what the cops will do. Enjoy the results.


7 people like this
Posted by pearl
a resident of another community
on Dec 3, 2019 at 6:42 am

pearl is a registered user.

If you want to get a better idea of what police officers face day in and day out, you might want to sign up for a police ride-a-long.


8 people like this
Posted by R. Ortiz
a resident of Menlo Park
on Dec 3, 2019 at 11:44 am

> If you want to get a better idea of what police officers face day in and day out, you might want to sign up for a police ride-a-long.

^^^ I did that once (back in 1978) with the PAPD. We drove around aimlessly & then stopped off at a coffee shop in Midtown Baskin-Robbins.

Speaking of cops over-reacting...Read today's local news section of the SF Chronicle.

The Petaluma man who was suspected of driving a stolen vehicle & died as a result of a police 'choke hold' was driving his own car!

Meanwhile the actual car thief/thieves got away.

The responding officers are now on 'paid administrative leave'. Go figure.


8 people like this
Posted by R. Ortiz
a resident of Menlo Park
on Dec 3, 2019 at 11:54 am

>> in Midtown Baskin-Robbins...in Midtown NEAR the Baskin-Robbins.

An uneventful day in the Midtown neighborhood, except for a neighbor who was walking his dog & mistaken + detained as an 'unidentified' home intruder.

Three squad cars and a bunch of neighbors watching from their front lawns..."OMG, that's George" several exclaimed.

George was finally released from detention & obviously PO'd. Meanwhile the actual home intruders got away.

For those old enough to remember..."Car 54, where are you?"

Answer: On administrative leave.


6 people like this
Posted by Lawsuit happy
a resident of Mountain View
on Dec 3, 2019 at 12:05 pm

@R Ortiz, they probably intentionally put you on an easy beat because they knew if you were exposed to any real danger or situation you'd have sued them for extreme abuse and trauma.


12 people like this
Posted by Family Friendly
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 3, 2019 at 2:33 pm

"Ward refused to stop and the officers pursued his green Honda Civic and surrounded it, before attempting to pull him out of the car through an open driver’s-side window, authorities said. In the struggle, a deputy put an arm around Ward’s neck."

The fact that he hadn't stolen the car doesn't give him authority to refuse lawful orders and resist arrest. He shouldn't get any sympathy, and his family shouldn't get a dime.


4 people like this
Posted by Oh sweet logic, you never fail me
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Dec 3, 2019 at 3:01 pm

Family Friendly, should cops have to obey the law when they are on duty?

You know what stops all these lawsuits? Cops who obey the law when on duty.


2 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Dec 3, 2019 at 4:11 pm

mauricio is a registered user.

There are many decent cops, and there are cops who would be criminals, but have chosen instead to commit crimes while in police uniforms and drawing a salary the public pays for. The big challenge is how to prevent them from becoming cops in the first place, and how to convince decent cops from shielding them under the police code of silence.

Any society that glorifies the police is ripe to become a police state. In the US the public glorifies cops much more than teachers and nurses.


4 people like this
Posted by Family Friendly
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 3, 2019 at 4:21 pm

Respect for the rule of law leads to a police state?

I’m pretty certain it’s the opposite. Anarchy leads to police states, in reaction to it or as an evolution of it through a chief theocrat or warlord.


10 people like this
Posted by R.Ortiz
a resident of Menlo Park
on Dec 4, 2019 at 5:46 am

> The fact that he hadn't stolen the car doesn't give him authority to refuse lawful orders and resist arrest. He shouldn't get any sympathy, and his family shouldn't get a dime.

^^^ If one is driving one's own car, it isn't THEFT of another vehicle nor grounds for an arrest (i.e. 'possession of a stolen vehicle - CA VC 10752).

The chief blunder was the officers using excessive force in an effort to pry him out of his own car.

By providing proper registration & the cops checking with DMV on their radios, all of this could have been avoided. Instead they opted to play hard-asses.

As a result, another criminal/civil lawsuit will be filed for police misconduct and in the real world...the actual car thieves of a green Honda Civic got away for the time being.

Overzealousness & lack of common sense on the part of the Petaluma PD led to this unfortunate & needless death.


2 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Dec 4, 2019 at 6:29 am

mauricio is a registered user.

Someone driving his own car and violently being pulled out by a thuggish cop is what happens in a police state. Cops don't do that in a civilized society. Cops brutalizing unharmed civilians what happens in police states, and it happens in the US on a daily basis. No cop would dare do it in Norway or Denmark. In those societies good cops turn in bad apples and don't protect them, unlike in the US. In the US ,the police seem to have less respect for the rule of law than the average citizen.


1 person likes this
Posted by reality check
a resident of South of Midtown
on Dec 4, 2019 at 11:14 am

Mauricio, there are 2.5 million police contacts per day (per google) in the US. Even if there were one "brutality incident" per day, the stats still don't support your claims. Your comments are based on nothing but propaganda and hearsay.


Like this comment
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Dec 4, 2019 at 2:55 pm

mauricio is a registered user.

1. Police officers are indicted in fewer than 1% of killings, but the indictment rate for civilians involved in a killing is 90%. (FiveThirtyEight)

2. On average, in the United States, a police officer takes the life of a citizen every 7 hours. (Fatal Encounters)

3. In 2015, there were 1,307 people who lost their lives at the hands of a police officer or law enforcement official. In 2016, that number was 1,152. Although lower, both years are still higher than the 1,149 people who were killed by police in 2014. (Fatal Encounters/Mapping Police Violence)

4. 52% of police officers report that it is not unusual for law enforcement officials to turn a blind eye to the improper conduct of other officers. (US Department of Justice)

5. 61% of police officers state that they do not always report serious abuse that has been directly observed by fellow officers. (US Department of Justice)

6. 43% of police officers agree with this sentiment: “Always following the rules is not compatible with the need to get their job done.” (US Department of Justice)

7. 84% of police officers have stated in a recent survey that they have directly witnesses a fellow officer using more force than was necessary. (US Department of Justice)

8. Just 5% of the police departments in the United States contributed statistics to a 2001 report that was created to track police brutality on civilians. (US Department of Justice)

9. The estimated cost of police brutality incidents in the United States is $1.8 billion. (Cop Crisis)

10. 93.7% of the victims of police brutality that involve the discharge of a weapon are men. (The Guardian)

11. People who are African-American/Black are twice as likely to be killed by a police officer while being unarmed compared to a Caucasian/White individual. (The Guardian)

12. Native Americans are just as likely to be killed by law enforcement officials in the United States as African-Americans/Blacks from 1999-2013 data. (CDC)

13. 1 in 4 people who are killed by law enforcement officials in the United States are unarmed. (Mic)

14. Out of the 2.3 million people who are incarcerated in the United States right now, an estimated 1 million of them are African-Americans/Black. (NAACP)

15. The most common form of police misconduct in 2010 was excessive force. This is similar to the data that was collected in 2001 by the US Government. (Cato Institute/US Department of Justice)

16. The second most common form of police misconduct is sexual assault. (Cato Institute)

17. 1 out of every 3 people that are killed by police officers in any given year in the United States is African-American/Black. (Mapping Police Violence)

18. Where you live matters when it comes to police brutality. If you are an African-American/Black individual, then you are 7 times more likely to be killed by a police officer in Oklahoma than you are if you lived in Georgia. (Mapping Police Violence)

19. In 17% of the 100 largest cities in the United States, police officers killed African-American/Black men at a higher rate than the US murder rate of 2014. (Mapping Police Violence)

20. Although Chicago draws a lot of attention due to its total number of murders, including a threat from the Executive Office to “bring the Feds” in 2017, it ranks 25th in the 100 largest US cities for police officers killing African-American/Black men. (Mapping Police Violence)

21. 69% of the victims of police brutality in the United States who are African-American/Black were suspected of a non-violent crime and were unarmed. (Mapping Police Violence)


Additionally, there are over 17,000 law enforcement agencies in the US, and the overwhelming majority of police brutality incidents is NOT entered into their data, so the situation is even worse than we suspect.

Many countries plagued by anarchy are also police states. To name just a few: Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador, Zambia.


4 people like this
Posted by R. Ortiz
a resident of Menlo Park
on Dec 4, 2019 at 6:57 pm

Good research/facts Mauricio...

>> 4. 52% of police officers report that it is not unusual for law enforcement officials to turn a blind eye to the improper conduct of other officers. (US Department of Justice)

^^^ 'Professional courtesy'?

>> 11. People who are African-American/Black are twice as likely to be killed by a police officer while being unarmed compared to a Caucasian/White individual. (The Guardian)

^^^ This goes without saying. The Oscar Grant killing at BART speaks volumes. A 'trained' law enforcement officer (Mehserle) mistakes his taser for a 9mm handgun while the other officers look on. BTW, Grant was unarmed...possibly belligerent but not posing an actual threat to any of the officers.

>> 21. 69% of the victims of police brutality in the United States who are African-American/Black were suspected of a non-violent crime and were unarmed. (Mapping Police Violence)

^^^ Case in point...an African-American is handcuffed & arrested for eating an Egg MacMcMuffin while waiting for a BART train.

Though eating food near the tracks is prohibited by BART, white passengers have noted that they are never questioned or arrested for such minor indiscretions.

'Eating while black' is just another extension of the irregularities often practiced by white law enforcement officers with personal 'issues' of their own.


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