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Palo Alto owes $135K to victim of police dog attack

Original post made on Jan 5, 2022

Palo Alto will pay $135,000 to settle a lawsuit by Joel Alejo, who was sleeping in a shed in Mountain View where he was attacked and repeatedly bitten by a police dog in June 2020.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, January 5, 2022, 2:39 PM

Comments (13)

Posted by scott
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Jan 5, 2022 at 6:37 pm

scott is a registered user.

The Palo Alto taxpayer got off light this time. If I were on a jury I would have awarded a lot more to a man who was mauled awake by a K-9 unit. There's never any excuse for a police officer to attack a sleeping person, much less to allow such an attack by another officer -of any species- to proceed "for about a minute."

With all these recent abuse cases, it should be abundantly clear that if the Council doesn't get this department in check soon, we can expect to pay more victims --and we shouldn't expect all the checks to be this small.

Posted by felix
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 5, 2022 at 7:34 pm

felix is a registered user.

$135K for a vicious dog-mauling of an innocent sleeping person? Shocking.
What are we not being told?
Was there bad plaintiff lawyering? A problematic client? A biased judge?
How was such a bizzare lo-ball settlement arrived at?
Does MVPD face any jeopardy?
This settlement alone gives no incentive for the PAPD canine unit to reform its practices (if not eliminate the unit).
This is a tragic step backwards from police reform.

Posted by
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 6, 2022 at 12:03 am is a registered user.

Why was the guy sleeping in a shed? They were looking for a kidnapping suspect, makes sense that they might think he was the person hiding in the shed. Most people do not sleep outside at night time in a shed!

Some of you should not call law enforcement when you need help if all you do is criticize them. Call the social worker instead.

Posted by rita vrhel
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 6, 2022 at 11:05 am

rita vrhel is a registered user.

I certainly agree Felix and Scott! The Palo Alto Police Dept needs to have new leadership and a new set of values. These violent attacks on people can not continue. Why does a trained dog need to attack a sleeping on the floor of a shed man? what immediate threat did he pose? Really? How would you feel if it was your kid? your husband? Your neighbor or co-worker?

Police leadership knows who the "problem" police are; the ones involved in these seemly endless lawsuits. And why is the public, who pays the bill, not being provided ALL the information? Full transparency is required.

I hope newly elected Mayor Burt takes this simmering topic on and provides an answer.

Palo Alto is not safer with problem police. I fully support our police but not the ones who keep breaking the law. Thank you.

Posted by scott
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Jan 6, 2022 at 11:48 am

scott is a registered user.

Rita, we actually have a fairly new Chief, and the Council recently adopted a bunch of 8-cant-wait reforms. They're trying some of the right sorts of things. Thanks to the reforms, both officers at the scene had a duty to intervene to protect Mr. Alejo. Did that matter for Mr. Alejo? Not one whit.

The problem is the culture within the department. (You can see this because they commit abuses in front of literal police officers --in front of each other.) Police departments typically involve a lot of self-policing. Combined with a cultural imperative within the department to protect their own, that can make reform very difficult as a policy matter. This is why California's recent move to open up abuse records is so important. It shuts down the worst cops playing musical chairs with departments, but it also creates an incentive for preventing investigations from happening at all.

So we need at least two more ingredients, IMO: 1) externally-driven accountability --someone watching the watchers who does not come from the cultural environment of policing; and 2) strong police whistleblower protections. If you look at the history of police whistleblowers, you see a lot of brutal retribution. Frank Serpico still carries a bullet in his head, Cariole Horne was fired unjustly, et cetera.

Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jan 6, 2022 at 12:02 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

We also need A) a city manager / city attorney who will be honest with taxpayers on whether the "bad" cops who cost us so much in legal settlements are being allowed to "retire" so they can collecttheir full pensions and benefits instead of their usual stonewalling when asked, and B) a district attorney who will start holding "bad" cops accountable rather than letting them plead down their charges.

Posted by James Goodwin
a resident of Southgate
on Jan 6, 2022 at 12:20 pm

James Goodwin is a registered user.

A horrible and costly incident that could easily have been avoided if the responding PA police officer had simply exercised some restraint rather than encouraging his K-9 to attack unnecessarily.

The K-9 cannot be blamed (or sued) so PA taxpayers will have to foot the bill...again.

Posted by
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 7, 2022 at 2:40 pm is a registered user.

None of you anti-law enforcement residents should call the police when you need them. You are too cowardly to put on a police uniform and have no idea what stress the police are under in dangerous conditions. Instead, you sit and judge them. COVID has surfaced all the mental illness of the liberals.

Posted by Jesse Taylor
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 7, 2022 at 2:54 pm

Jesse Taylor is a registered user.

> How was such a bizzare lo-ball settlement arrived at?

Concurring...Mr. Alejo should have received far more in punitive damages including criminal negligence, lost wages, personal injuries + medical attention, rehabilitation, and mental anguish.

The 1/3 attorney's fee leaves him with roughly $90K...a mere pittance given what wrongfully occured.

Posted by All Along the Watchtower
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 8, 2022 at 11:30 am

All Along the Watchtower is a registered user.

It's not about being anti-police. It's about full accountability.

Posted by Screeedek
a resident of Stanford
on Jan 14, 2022 at 11:55 am

Screeedek is a registered user.

As horrible as this dog attack is, what I can't figure out it why was this guy sleeping in a shed. Why didn't the homeowner just let him sleep on their sofa or the floor. Why a shed? And why didn't the homeowner tell the police they had someone living in their shed when they knocked on the door?

Can someone answer?

Posted by jlanders
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 14, 2022 at 2:24 pm

jlanders is a registered user.

Joel Alejo lived in Mountain View with his grandmother until she died in 2010. He became homeless and bounced around the area and unfortunately acquired a substance abuse problem. Most of the other details are covered by his attorney's protective order, but you can find a story about him on from 2021.

Folks unhoused for long periods of time often find it difficult to adjust to sleeping indoors on soft surfaces. That's one reason why Palo Alto's Homekey project is critical to getting people off the street and back on their feet. Sadly, the need is much greater than Palo Alto's and our neighboring cities' ability to meet it.

When police were given permission to search the backyard by Joel Alejo's relatives after 2AM that morning, both parties did not know Joel Alejo was in the backyard shed. Since the dog was leashed and tracking, policy didn't require a verbal announcement. So, when the dog encountered Joel Alejo around a wall and out of the line of sight of the officer, everyone was surprised. The IPA report will likely have more details and a discussion about PAPD's K-9 policy changes as a result of this incident.

Posted by Lennie
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 2, 2022 at 3:40 pm

Lennie is a registered user.

Dear It is what it is,

Why was the guy sleeping in a shed? Who cares? What difference does that make? You are clearly the outlier in this discussion. Instead of addressing the main problem which is police misbehavior, you seem to have unquestioned loyalty to anyone who wears a uniform. On the contrary, we should expect a lot more from the people who wear uniforms at the taxpayers' expense, especially if they are allowed to carry firearms.

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