Town Square

Expose of Palo Alto Police on NBC 11 News

Original post made by Watch Maker, Evergreen Park, on Aug 11, 2014

The NBC 11 Investigative team is airing an expose tomorrow night during the 11 p.m. newscast about the Palo Alto Police Department. The teaser clip look like their own cops gave undercover interviews about their bosses making them have a ticket quota. The police chief looks like he wont answer the reporters question. I’ll be watching for sure.


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Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 11, 2014 at 9:40 pm

I don't see anything wrong with a ticket quota - as long as they don't go after trivial law-breakers ... like someone who doesn't come to a full stop at 2 in the morning when there is zero traffic.

Just to be clear about that, I don't mind if they stop someone at 2am for breaking a law, I just do not think they should be given a ticket unless they are really endangering someone.

It is clear the police have not been giving out many tickets, and people's driving shows it. I am not for the police being heavy-handed, but to motivate people to be better drivers they should be out there and find people more often, stop people more often, and if warranted - give out more tickets.

Just my opinion.

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Posted by Watch Maker
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Aug 11, 2014 at 9:47 pm

The quotas that the news report aledges are highly illegal. I will try to find the specific law and list it here but a simple Google search shows how illegal they are. Plus the police chief is show running away from a reporters. If there is nothing to hide why didn't he stop and talk to her?

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Posted by Cop
a resident of another community
on Aug 11, 2014 at 9:51 pm

I can answer that for you. Ticket quotas illegal. California Vehicle Code 41602 states "No state or local agency employing peace officers or parking enforcement employees engaged in the enforcement of this code or any local ordinance adopted pursuant to this code, may establish any policy requiring any peace officer or parking enforcement employees to meet an arrest quota."

If PAPD is doing that the Chief and any of his command staff will be fired and the DOJ will investigate.

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Posted by Mom
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Aug 11, 2014 at 10:15 pm

What's really lame is when they are on Churchill in the mornings giving tickets to Paly students for not wearing helmets. These kids are stressed enough and they make them late to school.

Why don't they give tickets for illegally turning into bike lanes when turning right? Cars are supposed to pull into the bike lane when the line breaks (prior to the corner) instead of driving all the way to the corner and turning right at the end. Most people don't know that. PAPD, enlighten them, please.

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Posted by Bob
a resident of Community Center
on Aug 11, 2014 at 11:10 pm

In 1981 I had to take my then Paly junior to traffic court because she ran a stop sign on bike at the corner of Churchill and something at 6:30 a.m. - not a car on the street in any direction. She was enroute to band practice for a football game performance in the days when Paly had a superb performing marching band with beautiful, classy uniforms. A reprimand to be careful would have been in order. She missed 3 classes and test to attend this court appearance, was emotionally distraught, and I had to take personal time off. Maybe the officer had to meet a quota. Maybe it's tradition, but it wasn't common sense.

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Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 12, 2014 at 2:14 am

Bob, I don't think the quality of ticket dispersal has anything to do with a quota, and if it does, then the officer in question would need retraining or firing.

The idiocy of the court system trying to tell the executive, i.e. the police, how to run their system - i.e. no quotas is interesting.

When traffic is out of control, more tickets need to be written,

and the police like any other employees need management and guidance as to where to devote their attention to their jobs.

quotas would seem to assist in this.

but what might really be helpful is to judge the quotas by how many tickets were actually held up by the judges, and the judges should be more professional about their judging.

For example in Bob's anecdote about his daughter ... if I was a judge I would throw that out, and that information should someone go back to the police officer and affects him in subsequent ticket dispensing.

I really hate to see me or anyone get a ticket for something that is trivial. Like when everyone today was going down Embarcadero Road at 40 MPH there was no cop in sight. But it's not fair to give a ticket to one person. Now speeding is so out of hand on Embarcadero the only way it can be controlled is to try to keep it clogged with traffic or just let it go. I do not mind if I get a ticket and actually did something wrong, although a warning is always nice. But I cannot really ever think of any time I got a ticket and actually did something that endangered anyone, myself or any property?

Instead of making silly limitations to how police work there is no logic to the law, how about making it mean something that people would respect?

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Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 12, 2014 at 8:12 am

What is really "lame" is a parent who let's their kid ride a bike without a helmet. The ticket is on you, not your child or the police.

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Posted by Long Time Employee
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 12, 2014 at 8:55 am

There aren't any Quota's in the department. There have been a couple employees who don't do anything and frustrate those of us to who come to work everyday and do something.

I wish they did more to deal with the slackers!

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Posted by Longer Time Employee
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 12, 2014 at 9:34 am

I am a PA Police employee. I'm nearing the end of my career so I don't care about protecting the administration's reputation anymore so here goes nothing. There is a quota but it is a sneaky one. Our captain and chief is worried about a possible upcoming audit so they told us we need to keep the ticket and arrest numbers high and stay attached to calls longer so it looks like we are busy. Meanwhile people's houses and cars get broken into every day but since patrolling your neighborhoods doesn’t generate a stat the captain doesn’t care about that. If you are a good boy or girl and do just as the brass told you to without ever stopping to think about it or ask why then you will be fine and have a great career full of promotions and special assignments. You wont know anything about the quota and the upcoming news story will seem made up. Case in point is the earlier post by Long Time Employee. I am sure he or she is a good boy or girl who will get all the promotions and specialties they want. They will be rewarded for their allegiance to the unethical administration.

However, if you dare to not follow these directives that not only are illegal you will be placed on an informal performance improvement plan by your sergeant who will do whatever his/her boss tells them to do too. Quotas in any form even informal ones are illegal in California. They are also highly unethical because we’re supposed to write tickets to change behavior not to shield us from an audit. Most of the employees at PAPD do whatever they are told to even when it is unethical like this but there are a few who spoke up. Those that did are blacklisted and will never promote or get specialties. Period. That's why a lot of my friends are trying to leave and go to another department. Im lucky because I get to leave soon. Good luck to those who have to stay.

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Posted by anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 12, 2014 at 12:30 pm

I will try to watch this tonight on tv -
thanks to Bob for his story about PALY-
I strongly disagree with police having ticket quotas but admit I know nothing about the legality of that -
I often see drivers, cyclists, and occasionally pedestrians breaking the law, in particular drivers dangerously running red lights...and wish for more active enforcement-
I don't think policing should be a "game" with quotas or randomness (like pulling over only one driver going slightly over the limit on Embarcadero when it is in fact filled with super-speeders) -
I had one occasion when Palo Alto police (undercover, or detective?) - not in uniform, assisted me by luckily being right there to witness someone attack me and my car in downtown Palo Alto. They acted swiftly to assist me and I thank them for that.
on the other hand, I was pulled over only once since living here, on Middlefield, for speeding, and the officer who wrote the citation was...I saw to my concern, once I saw his name on the notice, the man who beat the black man some years back (was reinstated but only after a huge investigation and disagreements...)

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Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Aug 12, 2014 at 1:08 pm

Hmmm is a registered user.

I'm not surprised about this at all. What law enforcement presents to the public and what goes on with brass and amongst the ranks are often a surprise to some of the public.

I am sorry that residents aren't getting the patrols and neighborhood interaction/intervention that can really make a difference.

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Posted by Home break ins
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 12, 2014 at 1:10 pm

If Palo Alto cops are being told to write tickets to avoid an audit like the firemen faced instead of focusing on preventing home break-ins we have a huge problem. We need more cops patrolling neighborhoods preventing break-ins because that is the biggest problem we face. Speed enforcement is the primary duty of the motorcycle cops but the cars are supposed to be focused on what the major problems are.

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Posted by But, but, but...
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 12, 2014 at 1:39 pm

Tickets and their fines are a source of income for the city. Preventing break-ins and violent crime is not.

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Posted by long-time resident, new cynic
a resident of Green Acres
on Aug 12, 2014 at 1:49 pm

As a long-time resident of this town, I want to pushback on this a little, because I have had really great experiences with our police and think they do a good job. I think our former Chief Johnson endured some pretty unfair and ridiculous criticism.

To Bob's point, where we live, the police are in a real bind. They are called by residents to come out and ticket the high school students who don't obey the law on their bikes, especially because the older riders are such a danger to the elementary children trying to walk to school. It's a perpetual problem. From experience, the police don't even like doing it. They realize it's hard on the kids when they get a ticket, I know because they've tried to tell us residents about the bind they are in when we've called about no one stopping at Donald and Maybell, or Donald and Georgia.

But then something else happens in our town, and along come the calls for just ticketing the older kids to teach them to stop. Remember the Maybell debates? Those in favor of the giant development without analyzing/dealing with safety to the kids were out in force saying everything would be hunky dory if the kids weren't such scofflaws -- that produced another round of ticketing. The police can't win. (We really just need a crossing guard at Donald and Maybell, frankly.)

We have overtaxed infrastructure, and the City Council keeps adding more development without dealing with the traffic and infrastructure problems. The school bond added to the perfect storm, by using up a lot of money on expensive multistory enlargement of our two high schools rather than reopening a third.

On the ground, that means thousands of kids getting to elementary, middle, and high school by foot and bike, along limited routes to school. Unfortunately, the gaggles of high school students often do not realize how dangerous they can be to the elementary kids. Trying to cross at Maybell and Donald is a nightmare for elementary families, older kids on bikes hardly ever stop at the stop sign, and those who do even endanger themselves as others who don't plan on stopping pile up behind.

It's hard for elementary kids to even get a break in the stream of bikes, ridden by older kids not even paying attention. If you get a small break, the bikes still don't stop, they just stream around the little kids trying to cross. I even once witnessed the child of a friend get hit by a high schooler on a bike. Bike-pedestrian accidents can be serious and even fatal to the pedestrian in the case of the very old or the very young.

But you bring that up in a forum, and what do people do? They yell at the police to ticket the high school students. Again, the police can't win. If they were anxious to get ticket money, all they would have to do is stand at Maybell and Donald every day, but they do that only rarely, judiciously and reluctantly when they are called. If there's a news story on this, it smacks to me of someone out to make our police look bad.

There were a number of cases in the last few years where the PAPD did some pretty good high-tech sleuthing and they've caught a surprising number of perps. How about the rash of burgleries we experienced here after the death of the late Steve Jobs, in which news organizations kept airing images making it look like people were leaving iPads lying around on the streets? (Palo Alto! Where the streets are paved with iPads!) I seem to recall the police actually broke some big cases involving stolen iPads after that. If there's going to be a story about them, how about that?

And given the grand jury report about the City Council, and all the serious misbehavior that has occurred in our planning department and Council in relationship to developers -- where are the news organizations there?

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Posted by Classic
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Aug 13, 2014 at 4:11 pm

If officers were willing to risk their careers by going undercover on the new to expose the truth we need to be listening to what they have the say. Especially for a female officers to do so because they have it harder than anyone given its a male oriented profession. I recommended this in another thread too-we need an independent investigation done.

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Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 14, 2014 at 10:54 am

> Quotas in any form even informal ones are illegal in California.

Can someone explain the complexities of this issue?

What is the formal reasoning behind quotas being illegal? Is there a statement, case law, or some valid logic behind this policy.

I have heard it for years, and honestly I think banning quotas is as difficult to think out as implementing them fairly ... perhaps that is why they are banned, but that probably means the reasoning behind it is nonexistent.

When I hear this it makes me think that there is even more room for hanky-panky shenanigans going on when Police get to pick and choose who they ticket then just because the outcome is statistically "noisy" it is somehow considered better.