RED Team showed it can be done

Publication Date: Wednesday Mar 17, 1999

RED Team showed it can be done

It was a like a nightmare that wouldn't end. The drug violence in East Palo Alto got worse and worse until, during one day and night on Jan. 15-16, 1992, 11 people were shot, one of them fatally.

A police emergency was declared and 70 cops from up and down the Peninsula flooded the city's streets the next several nights.

By April, Palo Alto, Menlo Park and East Palo Alto had assembled an anti-drug unit composed of four Palo Alto, one East Palo Alto and two Menlo Park cops.

By the time the Regional Enforcement Detail--known as the RED Team--was disbanded in June 1994, it had made 1,032 arrests. It had also helped bring the number of homicides in the city down from 42 in 1992--the year it earned the forever painful label by the FBI as being the homicide capital of the country on a per capita basis--to six in 1993. For regional cooperation, it was a shining moment.

The RED Team paved the way for the San Mateo County Sheriff's Department to put 18 deputies on the streets of East Palo Alto and for the California Highway Patrol to put 14 officers on the streets, doubling the police presence in April 1993. It also led to greater cooperation off the streets, in government halls.

The RED Team was already in place and working by December 1992 and January 1993 when three women--Sharifa Wilson in East Palo Alto, Gail Slocum in Menlo Park and Jean McCown in Palo Alto--were elected mayors of their cities.

They met for brunch one day and struck up a friendship that led to greater collaboration among the three cities. Palo Alto loaned staff and equipment to East Palo Alto, let East Palo Alto store public works equipment at the Palo Alto Municipal Services Center, and twice now has given East Palo Alto police cars it was about to replace and then traded in older East Palo Alto police cars for its new cars.

Menlo Park has given East Palo Alto chairs for its council chambers, trimmed trees in that city and sent building inspectors over when East Palo Alto needed help.

Those arrangements continue to this day, said Palo Alto City Manager June Fleming and Menlo Park City Manager Jan Dolan.

But that's staff-to-staff, informal assistance below the level of any official partnership between the cities.

"The last time we had (greater cooperation), there was a real crisis," Slocum said. "I don't see anything like that now."

"Some amount of crisis or real peril may be needed to get there (again)," McCown said. "But I wish that weren't the case."

--Don Kazak 

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