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May 11, 2005

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Palo Alto Online

Publication Date: Wednesday, May 11, 2005

News Digest News Digest (May 11, 2005)

Committee to discuss police-camera policy

A new policy regarding when Palo Alto police officers will be required to turn on new digital video cameras in their patrol cars will be reviewed by the city's Human Relations Commission on Thursday night.

It will be the first test of the commission's new role as the city's police review board, which it recently accepted. The proposal was prompted by concerns that officers mistreated a few suspects of color; an assault trial against two Palo Alto officers recently ended in a hung jury with the majority of jurors favoring a guilty verdict.

According to a draft of the new video camera policy, officers will be required to turn on the cameras in many situations -- during traffic stops, vehicle pursuits, arrests, detentions, bicycle and pedestrian stops, drunk driving investigations and prisoner transports. However, the officers will only need to turn on the cameras when the activity in question occurs "within the field of view of the camera's recording range."

The cameras will automatically record video, but not audio, whenever the car's red lights and sirens are activated.

Some police watchdogs want the cameras on at all times. But Police Chief Lynne Johnson said there are "privacy issues" and "cost issues" regarding that idea. "It would triple the cost of system if we had them running all the time," she said.

The city is in the process of interviewing vendors that sell the cameras, which are estimated to cost $200,000. The final approval of the cameras' purchase, and the completed policy, will come before the council later this year, possibly in July.

When the council tentatively approved the cameras last November, Councilwoman LaDoris Cordell said the cameras would be "a major step" in increasing "confidence and accountability" of the department, but only if the policy gives officers as little discretion as possible for when the cameras are videotaping. --Bill D'Agostino
Gunn, Paly ranked by Newsweek

Gunn High School in Palo Alto was ranked the 70th best high school in the country in the current issue of Newsweek magazine, which ranked the top 1,000 high schools. Palo Alto High School, meanwhile, was ranked 330th.

The rankings are compiled on a relatively narrow basis: The number of Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate tests taken by all students divided by the number of graduating seniors.

Both Paly and Gunn dropped a bit from their ratings a year ago, when Gunn was ranked 53rd and Paly was ranked 212th. -- Don Kazak
Ritchey Fisher to merge with larger firm

The Palo Alto law firm of Ritchey Fisher Whitman & Klein will become part of a larger, Minneapolis-based international law firm, it was announced this morning. Ritchey Fisher's 15 lawyers will join Dorsey & Whitney's 600 lawyers.

"With this merger, we are better able to meet the needs of our entrepreneurial clients as their businesses succeed," said Craig Ritchey, senior partner at Ritchey Fisher.

Dorsey Whitney already has specialty offices in Palo Alto and San Francisco.

"This combination makes Dorsey an ideal law firm choice for Northern California-based clients, especially emerging companies and those in the technology and life sciences industries," said Peter S. Hendrixson, Dorsey's manager partner. Ritchey Fisher was founded in 1965. -- Don Kazak

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