Surfing the Net at Palo Alto City Hall and the Costs to Taxpayers

City of Palo Alto Surfing the Web on Taxpayers Dime

Our decision to block the web surfing abilities of the city of Palo Alto to our site did not come easy and as our director of IT stated, “there one of our biggest customers”.

From there site visits alone, we were able to analyze through data mining, popular pages, entry pages, exit pages, came from, keyword analysis, recent keyword analysis, recent came from, exit links, exit links activity and downloads a gold mine of behind the scenes activity a watershed of information.

At the same time we realized city government employees were surfing the web on our taxpayer monies.  That’s extortion in my eyes, stealing monies off the backs of taxpayer while they should be working for us!

And they have the audacity for wanting to negotiate an increase in salaries and benefits when they should be looking at ways to save money.

Stop surfing the web on our dime!

Why would the city want to surf our site anyway? In the eyes of city attorney Donald Larkin former TOP city attorney for the city of Palo Alto stated were not considered a news reporting agency, were not “bona fide” reporters and he has directed city staff not to speak to us or grant us interviews [blacklisting] and yet they were, were one of our biggest customers.  Go figure!

The actual lose in non-productivity in surfing the web can be staggering. One such white paper study by ** GFI – Internet monitoring: not ‘Big Brother’ but ‘Wise Management’ was quite revealing.

 

  • “According to IDC Research, 30% to 40% of Internet use in the workplace is not related to business.”
  • “The cost of employees surfing the web from their office PCs is estimated to cost US companies more than $1 billion dollars a year”

http://surveilstar.com/employee-internet-monitoring-research-resources.html

Our data revealed that the Palo Alto police department was the largest abuser of non-productivity time .  Hundreds of hours spent surfing our site when in fact they should have been out policing our streets a job well compensated for.

This is just one other area which we believe is out-of-control under police Chief Dennis Burns’s leadership with no accountability and or transparency in sight by anyone!!  Here’s a brief snapshot and calculation of the city of Palo Alto’s employees attempts to access our site since imposing our ban.

Note our chart of their activities for all departments.

Time spent surfing Paloaltofrees.com by the City of Palo Alto and its employees.

Less than 5 secs 

From 5 secs to 30 secs 

From 30 secs to 5 mins 

From 5 mins to 20 mins 

From 20 mins to an hour

Longer than an hour 

City of Palo Alto Employee Surfing Stats

First Time Visitors 

1-5 Returning Visits 

6-10 Returning Visits 

10+ Returning Visits 

Time spent surfing City of Palo Alto
City of Palo Alto Surfing Stats

Now, for the actual non-productive time spent as waist in terms of dollars lost to the taxpayers of the City of Palo Alto?

We beleive accountability and transparency for this task should come from the cities finance department.

It should be their responsibility to calculate this lost time  in productivity and to hold all those responsible for potential fraud and extortion of taxpayers monies.

However, for those of you who are math wiz’s and based on our analysis, we have provider 2009 Gross Salaries for the city of Palo Alto in excel format for the purposes of your own analysis and the actual losses may taser you to your senses that our current city leadership is simply not doing the job to which they were elected for.

Internet Monitoring – GFI White Paper

City of Palo Alto 2009 Gross Salaries

**About GFI, GFI Software provides web and mail security, archiving, backup and fax, networking and security software and hosted IT solutions for small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) via an extensive global partner community.

GFI products are available either as on-premise solutions, in the cloud or as a hybrid of both delivery models. With award-winning technology, a competitive pricing strategy, and a strong focus on the unique requirements of SMEs, GFI satisfies the IT needs of organizations on a global scale.

The company has offices in the United States (North Carolina, California and Florida), UK (London and Dundee), Austria, Australia, Malta, Hong Kong, Philippines and Romania, which together support hundreds of thousands of installations worldwide.

GFI is a channel-focused company with thousands of partners throughout the world and is also a Microsoft Gold Certified Partner. More information about GFI can be found at http://www.gfi.com.

Up-dated: July 1, 2011.   One PAPD alleged internet abuser identified as Sergeant Scott Savage.

13 May09:49:38 AMIE 8.0
Win7
1280×720 Sunnyvale,
California,
United StatesComcast Cable (71.198.23.179) Scott Savage
http://paloaltofreepress.com/papd-officer-parham-runs-a-stop-sign-and-the-making-of-a-papd-complaint/
paloaltofreepress.com/

The Evidence Speaks for Itself

Stamped into evidence

United States Federal Judge Lucy H. Koh will not permit me to present evidence to the jury, the evidence I have provided to her. Judge Koh concluded that NO tampering of evidence occurred.

This is your opportunity to be the judge and decide if the Palo Alto Police Falsified the MAV (Mobil Audio Visual), recorders, the Taser cameras and the taser gun Data Ports. For complete details go to www.freewillbill.com I have included some videos as well

Tony Ciampi

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QsEulRdS2EE

ONE: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AKJZG2TycZw

TWO: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RScPA9GTR4w

THREE: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=agZ2NwAf4Q0

FOUR: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cCXERt-i8CI

FIVE: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gHJDidmeQeA

SIX: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nakKrnCKT5U

SEVEN: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ttMfqPtw708

EIGHT: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5vraLGoFa1o

NINE: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FuZz7yc4cjE

TEN: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R9YK5mjTglI

ELVEVEN: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WwU7OWzsPOw

TWELVE: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QsEulRdS2EE

THIRTEEN: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LsOLZJNwtUM

Judge KOH-Tradictions

FOURTEEN: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xm4pyTk76a4

 

 

The email light is on, but no one has been [up stairs] home for over a year

Welcome to the Palo Alto Human Relations Commission Now Go Home!

Former PA HRC Chair Daryl Savage
Current HRC Chair- Ray Bacchetti **
HRC Vice Chair-Claude Ezran

Perhaps thousands of emails sent to hrc@cityofpaloalto.org have gone unanswered. And no one in the community has been informed of this change.  So it would appear the community has been left in the dark. 

So if you have been sending your heart felt email concerns to the Human Relations Committee no one is listening.

We at Palo Alto Free Press have been striving to get at the truth for months now and no one at city hall seems to be concerned.

In fact, the non-responsiveness by the Human Relation Committee has been raised on multiple occasions even being brought before city council and like the HRC; it’s fallen on deaf ears.

** On news media inquires:  “Dear Mark: I’ve changed my mind.  Don’t want to play gotcha. Ray”

HRC Mission: To address human relations issues, including promotion of awareness, understanding and resolution of actual or potential conflicts, discrimination, or injustice while encouraging community building and civic engagement.

HRC Agenda 06-09-2011

HRC Memo Noverber 2009

Up-date: June 24th, 2011

Practicing the Art of Deception – Were well past the date on answers to our California Public Records Request digging, probing, reporting on the answers as to why the email address HR@cityofpaloalto.org was turned off.

None of the committee members are willing and refuse to engage us in any meaningful discussions contrary to their mission statement.

Council Liaison: Gail Price

Staff Liaison: Minka van der Zwaag – 650-463-4953

BACCHETTI, Ray

BERNARDO, Dolores

CHEN, Theresa

EZRAN, Claude

O’NAN, Jill

SAVAGE, Daryl

VERMA, Sunita

The HRC decision to turn-off perhaps one of the most important features and channels of communications with the community is mind boggling.  Equally mind boggling is the fact that no one, no one cares to step-up to the plate and address this ‘human relations issue’.

They have torched their own bridge to community building and civic engagement. We have been deceived!!  What we did learn through persistent probing was that the email address was turned off.

Brilliant we already knew this……

From: Van DerZwaag,Minka
To: paloaltofreepress@gmail.com

Re: HRC email

Mon, Jun 20,2011

Dear Mr. Peterson-Perez,

The Human Relations Commission email had been non-functioning, but that has now been remedied.  You may send in all further inquiries to the Human Relations Commission to hrc@cityofpaloalto.org.

Regards,
Minka van der Zwaag
Staff liaison to the HRC

What we didn’t learn were ALL the reasons surrounding why the decision was made to turn-off the email address and most importunately why no public announcement in the first place.

Nor did they answer any of the questions posed by our California Public Records Request and it would appear the entire HRC is indeed masters in the art of community deception and so we leave them and the community with the following quote:

“Deception is a cruel act…It often has many players on different stages that corrode the soul.”

Donna A. Favor – Member of the Board of Directors of the Montgomery Institute, 1955

First published Jun 7, 2011

Anti-Circumcision Proposition?

Anti-Circumcision

What does the San Francisco Anti-Circumcision Proposition, ARC – ATTORNEY’S for the Rights of Children,  Larry Schofield – an unemployed activist,  Sharia Law, and Female Genital Mutilation all have in common ?

Everyone laughs at San Francisco – the world’s largest outdoor insane asylum.  But as California goes, so goes the nation.  And where are we going now?

You may have first heard that there was a nutty movement in SF to stop the circumcision of young boys, and then to even fund the reconstruction of circumcised adults with City Tax money.  Everyone laughed.   The joke was…. all so that gay men would have a ‘little more to play around with…’

Let them do whatever they want, it doesn’t bother anybody.  Oh really.  Who put up the money and organized the protests to put this proposition on the ballot ?

The SF media reports that that there are gay activists and several Muslim-Jewish ‘front’ groups supposedly allied, claiming to support the SF Proposition prohibiting the Circumcision of boys.  In addition, there have been several newspaper articles that published  surveys, polls and goals of anti-religious tradition groups seeking more freedom and rights for men and young boys.

It turns out most of this noise has been effective in writing a law and now getting it on the ballot for a vote by the people of San Francisco.  The big question is why?  And who?  Who is really behind this fiasco?

A group of attorneys in Berkeley, also working in San Francisco and calling themselves the ‘Attorneys for the Rights of Children-ARC,’  has  funded an unemployed activist named Larry Schofield to stage small demonstrations and protests in favor of the ACL – Anti-Circumcision Law.

Why?   Because these attorneys plan to expand the area of potential lawsuits and punitive monetary awards by enabling young men to sue their parents, if the men were circumcised as children.   Think this can’t happen ?  Remember, these are lawyers.  Lawyers only get paid, when you get sued.  Think of all the Gen X’rs,  Generation Y’s, with pitiful job prospects, envying mom and dad’s house, savings, investments.

You had your child circumcised 25 years ago and now you get sued for $100,000 because your unemployed gay son has a good lawyer who will bet One Third of that $ 100,000 as a Contingency for services rendered.

But why would Muslim groups be against Circumcision and in support of a Gay ‘right’ when Islam is sternly against anything homosexual ?  Here the plot thickens.  There are sexual equivalency laws in the good ole US of A.  Men and Women are to be treated equally, the same, all the time.  We have female Cops, female Firemen, even Female grunts fighting in Afghanistan.

If this Proposition is rejected by the voters and thus the Circumcision of young boys continues,  then Women (young girls) will be ‘entitled to’ the same treatment as young boys and young girls can then be circumcised according to Sharia Law (Muslim Law), in the U.S.

Does that sound too far out?

Sharia Law is already making inroads in the United States.   This ‘Circumcision Proposition’ may be a legal maneuver to enable the Muslim custom of Circumcising young girls right here, in the USA.

Are there any precedents for this sort of thing?

There have been several ‘honor murder’ cases in the US in which judges have been lenient to dismissive because of the ‘Cultural Customs’ of the perpetrators, think (Muslims).

Muslim neighborhoods of Detroit and some smaller communities have already granted jurisdiction in certain civil cases to Sharia Law.

The ‘Call to Prayer’ is broadcast 5 times a day in some small towns in Michigan.

You can buy Sharia based Mutual Funds in the USA.

And soon, the mutilation of young girls may be mandatory in the USA, once all these legal tricks play out.

In summary, ‘everybody’ get something out of the San Francisco Anti-Circumcision Proposition.  Lawyers gain a whole new field of lawsuits and income, (Child/Parental Lawsuits).

Homosexuals gain more publicity, more ‘rights,’ more influence in the control and care of children, (such as homosexual ‘gender’ studies in public schools) and now even child genital styling.  Gay Jewish men get to play with more Dingus.  And finally, Sharia law gains by using the power of the US legal system to enforce the mutilation of young girls in the US according to Sharia Law.

Sounds too crazy to be true.  But this is San Francisco, California.  Only eternal vigilance of the Good can prevent the reign of Evil.

City of Palo Alto Quietly Lifts Ban on Critical Email Addresses

Palo Alto City Blocked Email

In a sting of stunning reversals of Palo Alto’s city attorney Donald Larkin who has made it a long time practice of “blocking”and “filtering” email messages sent to government employees without the benefit of “Due Process” of law, newly appointed chief legal attorney Molly Stumps has quietly instructed the city’s IT Department to undue city attorney Donald Larkin’s unconstitutional doing’s.

In fact Mr. Larkin teamed up with current police chief Dennis Burns and attorney Michael Genanco, Independent Police Auditor contracted with the city of Palo Alto in ordering and approving the blocking of ALL critical email addresses.

One such email directive was intercepted from Chief Burns last year where he requested the IT department to block the email addresses of Palo Alto police critic and attorney Aram B. James and the current editor of Palo Alto Free Press.

PAPD Chief Dennis Burns

“Hi Glenn

Can you block the email addresses listed below from reaching the City email address of Sandra Brown, Bob Beacom, Mark Venable, Patty Lum and Bob Bonilla? The comments have become inappropriate and the employees should not have to be submitted to this nonsense.

Thanks, Dennis [Palo Alto Police Chief]
abjpd1@juno.com
public.records.request.tracking@gmail.com”

In response to Chief Burns and city attorney Donald Larkin’s actions, attorney and former public defender Aram B. James wrote the following:

3/2/2010

Hi Dennis,

I had nothing to do with the e-mails sent by Mark Petersen Perez to the below parties and am requesting that you immediately rescind your request to Glenn Loo that my e-mails (should I decide to send one) to Sandra Brown, Bob Beacom, Mark Venable, Patty Lum and Bob Bonilla be blocked.

I have sent no e-mails in the last few days ( or longer) to any of the above parties. If you have a specific e-mail in mind that I have sent, to the above parties, that you contend is some how not consistent with my First Amendment right to communicate with my local public officials and or is some how in violation of some other legal principal –please copy me with that e-mail and I will be happy to discuss the particular e-mail with you and the city attorney’s office.

I did send out a long e-mail re Sandra Brown several days ago (see below, titled: Has Lt. Sandra Brown mislead the people of Palo Alto? You be the judge!) but I believe nothing in that e-mail is in any way beyond the scope of appropriate and protected First Amendment criticism of a member of your department. In fact the letter in question was in direct response to comments Lt. Brown made to the press (Palo Alto Daily Post) back on February 16, 2010.

Okay, Dennis I look forward to your response. I will copy Gary Baum and Don Larkin in on this e-mail.

Sincerely,

Aram James

Attorney Aram B. James stinging critical email which may have caused the indiscriminate blocking of all critical emails.

Re: Has Lt. Sandra Brown misled the people of Palo Alto? You be the judge!

2/24/2010

Hi Mark,

Why would any police department be proud of a DUI convicted officer? And why would that same department allow someone like Lt. Sandra Brown to—(apparently acting in the capacity as the department’s spokesperson-spin-mister) –try to get over on the public by stretching credibility to the breaking point?

As I will argue below: Lt. Brown’s suggestion that when an officer of the PAPD is arrested or convicted of a DUI —that they should be held to a different standard then the rest of us, by being allowed to keep information re their arrest private, is simply untenable on its face.

The truth is, once arrested, any of us, cop, or non-cop– the information and fact of the arrest becomes public record under the California Public Records Act. See: California Government Code & 6254 (f) (1).

Law enforcement agencies must make available to the public the following information about individuals the agency has arrested. In addition to other information mandated to be released– pursuant to the public records act– the following must be released:

The full name and occupation of every individual arrested by the agency.

As such –this officer’s name (the convicted PAPD officer) has no doubt already been published (made public) in the local police blotter and or newspaper –in the town and county where he/she was arrested.

By failing to provide this information the PAPD is simply engaged in a delay tactic–hoping that the press, and or some other entity— is simply unwilling or unable to track down the information that has already been made public.

In other words, the PAPD is playing cat and mouse with the public trust–hoping that the controversy will simple go away–without anyone tracking down the information that has in fact already been made public.

In the Daily Post of February 16, 2010, in an article titled, When a cop gets a DUI, Lt. Sandra Brown made the false and misleading claim that for the PAPD to release the name of the officer would be an unwarranted invasion of his privacy. In fact she is quoted in the piece as follows:

“We all have our right to privacy, we are all human and we all make mistakes, no matter who writes our paycheck,” said Brown.

Lt. Sandra Brown knows this is not the truth. When a member of the PAPD makes an arrest such information becomes public, by way of the department’s police log (police blotter). The information is subsequently reported in the press.

Lt. Brown’s comments, suggest, misleadingly, that somehow police officers are above the law and are entitled to more privacy then other individuals arrested. The truth is quite different –police are entitled to the same level of privacy as any other individual arrested, no more and no less.

Lt. Sandra Brown, yet again, attempts to turn both common sense and the truth on its head with the following comments— attributed to her in the same post article:

Palo Alto Police would not have to attend mandatory alcohol counseling for a drunken driving conviction, and an officer who had been convicted of drunken driving would still be allowed to make drunken driving arrests, as a matter of public safety, said Brown. (Note: in the same article—comments attributed to Lt. Sandra Brown suggest that the DUI convicted officer would not be subject to random checks for alcohol).

So think about the implications of the above comments: we are led to believe by Lt. Brown that it is a matter of public safety that a convicted DUI officer should still be allowed to make drunk driving arrests, while at the same time not being subjected to random drinking tests himself ,or mandatory DUI classes for his conviction. Does this absurd suggestion/proposition by Lt. Brown make you feel safer?

Common sense suggests that absent disclosure of the officer’s name, absent a clean bill of health re this officer having completed mandatory DUI classes, and absent random testing to ensure that the officer is not drinking on the job—it is the officer and the department— that allows him to continue on the job under these conditions– that constitutes the public safety threat—not the other way around.

Lt. Sandra Brown’s suggestion that not allowing this officer to conduct DUI arrests— until he has been subject to all of the above programs and testing –would some how implicate public safety is disingenuous at best—and ,more simply, a blatant attempt to deceive the public Lt. Brown has sworn to serve and protect.

One final bit of irony—this is the same Lt. Sandra Brown who now apparently supervises internal affairs, and oversees citizen complaints filed against fellow members of the PAPD.

Given Lt. Brown’s obvious contempt for both the public trust and the truth –it does not inspire a sense of confidence that citizen complaints will be taken seriously by this department. Its time that the PAPD release the name of the convicted DUI officer, now! Justice, fair play and public safety demand such a result.

Sincerely,

Aram James

In a follow-up email from famed civil rights attorney Michael Gennaco and head of the Office of Independent Review (OIR)  based in Los Angeles protesting their joint collaboration, Gennaco issues the following email response:

Famed Civil Rights Attorney Michael Gennaco

3/3/10

“Mr. Petersen-Perez:

I acknowledge receipt of your complaint. On its face, your complaint does not indicate a violation of Palo Alto Police Departmental policy. Accordingly, we intend to take no action with regard to your complaint. Feel free to pursue whatever recourse you believe is available to you with the US Department of Justice.

Michael Gennaco”

Apparently, the First Amendment is not recognized in any police manuals maintained by the PAPD and therefore no violation has been committed.

In any event, were extremely pleased with newly appointed Molly Stump’s decision to undo city attorney Donald Larkin’s unconstitutional blocking of email addresses critical of city government.

However, a lingering question remains. Will she open the closed secret door meetings being privately help by police chief Dennis Burns?  Will she continue too promote transparency and open government. That question remains to be seen.

July 6th, 2011 – Up-Date:  City attorney Donald Larkin’s sinister email document reveals PAPD Chief Dennis Burns directive to “Block” critics emails.

From: Larkin, Donald
Sent: Monday, March 08, 2010 5:33 PM
To:abjpd1@juno.com
Subject: RE: Update re order by Chief Dennis Burns blocking my e-mail access to city employees

Aram,

While I am not prepared to discuss the specifics of the e-mail messages you have previously sent, I have tried to respond to your questions regarding the request by the Police Chief to limit your ability to directly e-mail several City employees. My responses to your questions are as follows:

1.  You are now able to e-mail the City Council and higher level (upper management and City Attorneys’ Office) employees.

2.   We do not track whether your e-mail or others are included in “spam” filters or other means of blocking e-mail at the client level.  The Chief has asked that your e-mail to some individuals be blocked, but I do not have any way of knowing whether there are others who are not receiving your e-mail.  Please note that unsolicited e-mail sent indiscriminately to a large group of recipients is frequently identified as spam, and is often caught in the City’s filters.

3.  There is no specific protocol.  Limits on a person’s ability to e-mail individual employees are made at the discretion of the department director and/or other management employees.  While there is no written policy regarding when a department director can limit e-mail access, some of the relevant factors that may be considered are:

a.   Receipt of e-mail from the sender is not necessary for the employee to complete his or her assigned responsibilities.

b.  The sender has sent messages or has forwarded messages by others that violate the City’s anti-harassment policy.  As you know, pursuant to Government Code section 12940(j), the City is required to make reasonable efforts to protect its employees from unlawful harassment by members of the public.  Cutting off e-mail access to specific employees would be considered a reasonable effort to protect an employee from harassment.

c.   The volume of e-mail and attachments received from a single sender, or a group of senders who copy City employees on an e-mail conversation causes the employee to exceed his or her maximum e-mail storage space.

d.   The receipt of e-mail messages from a specific outside sender is disruptive, and hinders the employee from performing his or her assigned tasks.

Please note, except for attorneys (who are required to maintain e-mail by the State Bar), there is no obligation for City employees to maintain direct outside e-mail addresses.  City policy is for departments to provide a single e-mail address for members of the community to send e-mail queries and communications.  For the Police Department that address is pd@cityofpaloalto.org.  This e-mail address is monitored daily, and messages are distributed to the appropriate department contact.

While you have a right to criticize public officials in any medium you wish, the First Amendment does not guarantee you direct access to every City employee.  In fact, as you are no doubt aware (and was just reiterated within the last couple weeks in the case of Hamer v. El Dorado County (2010 WL 670780)) the “First Amendment does not impose any affirmative obligation on the government to respond to the petitions raised by individual citizens, does not guarantee that citizens’ speech will be heard, and does not require that every petition for redress of grievances be successful.”

As the Supreme Court has noted:

However wise or practicable various levels of public participation in various kinds of policy decisions may be, this Court has never held, and nothing in the Constitution suggests it should hold, that government must provide for such participation. In Bi-Metallic the Court rejected due process as a source of an obligation to listen. Nothing in the First Amendment or in this Court’s case law interpreting it suggests that the rights to speak, associate, and petition require government policymakers to listen or respond to individuals’ communications on public issues.  Minnesota State Bd. for Community Colleges v. Knight 465 U.S. 271, 104 S.Ct. 1058.

Regards,

Donald Larkin

Assistant City Attorney

City of Palo Alto

(650) 329-2171

donald.larkin@cityofpaloalto.org

This e-mail may contain confidential and/or attorney-client privileged material. If you have received this message in error, please immediately notify the sender and delete this e-mail message from your computer.

San Francisco Crime Lab Debacle Signals Need to Challenge Prosecutor’s Junk Science

A compromised crime lab might be more endemic than an exception, and according to defense attorney Aram James, points to a larger flaw in the mechanics of the criminal justice system.

San Francisco Crime Lab Debacle Signals Need to Challenge Prosecutor’s Junk Science

Recent revelations of a compromised crime lab in San Francisco has brought scrutiny and criticism to the San Francisco Police Department and District Attorney’s office. Investigations by oversight agencies as well as the media have shown that the lab had mixed up DNA sample, concealed criticisms from the American Society of Crime Lab Directors, and had insufficient security – with doors to the facility being left open, leaving DNA potentially exposed to contamination, opening up challenges to the evidentiary chain of custody and a variety of other attacks on its scientific reliability.

But while all attention might be focused on the inadequacies of one crime lab, the problems found at the San Francisco lab should be prompting counties and cities across the country to examine their own crime labs, and challenge a more fundamental flaw in our system – the acceptance of prosecutors’ “science” as truth.

As a former public defender of 25 years, and having observed criminal cases across the country, I strongly suspect that crimes labs all over this state and country are equally as bad, if not worse, than the San Francisco Crime Lab, as depicted in the recent San Francisco Weekly’s cover story entitled “Missing Links.”

The exposé should be a call to action by the community at large impacted by the criminal justice system to become more aware about how the state/prosecution routinely attempts to get over on our communities with junk science — from phony gang experts, to pseudo drug experts, to drugs that haven’t been tested or adequately challenged by the defense, to bad DNA results.

What the public often does not see is the process leading up to the presentation of evidence before it hits the courtroom, and the surprising non-existent standards required. A rookie cop, just out of the police academy, instantly becomes the expert of choice, on the cheap, for the convenience of the District Attorney and courts on issues as wide-ranging as what constitutes possession for sale, to what constitutes usable quantity, to who is a gang member versus someone who simply wears the youth fashions of the day.

It’s not just the prosecution and police that have gotten over on us. I put equal blame and responsibility for this mess of a criminal justice system on the often impotent, by choice, defense bar for frequently and systemically failing to take on this bad/junk/fraudulent science and/or for failing to call defense experts to rebut the steady stream of junk science put on by the prosecution in this county, state, and country.

We should never have our community members stipulate (agree to) to drug results and or any other forms of so-called scientific evidence. A community that cares in the proper defense of a defendant, and the attorneys that represent them, need to force the prosecution to prove every link in the chain of the evidence (including the reliability and integrity of their so-called infallible science), if they want to convict our clients.

Too often (in fact almost without exception), I have seen defense attorneys stipulate that the substance the police have seized from our clients’ person, cars, homes, etc., is the drug or contraband the police claim it is — without putting the prosecution and their labs through their hoops and forcing the state to prove — through good science — that the contraband is what they claim it is.

Part of the mentality I have observed — up close and personal in the courtroom as a public defender — is defense attorneys stipulating away their clients’ rights for their (the attorney’s) convenience. Or they simply do not want to be perceived as rocking the boat in the courtroom — all to the extreme detriment of the client and their families.

The public defender administrators who allow their line attorneys to commit this crime against our communities basic due process rights must be called to account.

You can be sure if it were the loved ones of these attorneys/administrators facing the same criminal injustice system there would be no stipulations to the state’s tests/evidence. And you can be sure that no expense would be spared to fight off the prosecution’s case/evidence and routine practice of overcharging our clients in hopes of extracting a forced plea bargain.

Our communities will accept nothing less than the same measure of due process and equal protection that the lawyers would demand if it were their life and liberty on the line.

Going forward, communities and advocates interested in bringing integrity to the criminal justice system must insist on touring our crime labs with our public servants/district attorneys so we can become conversant with the language of their legitimate scientific evidence. But we must be equally aware of where the system/crime labs have failed us, and as a result, imprisoned us unjustly. Knowledge is power, and now it is incumbent on us to obtain that knowledge.

As the court system collapses under its own weight, exacerbated by a lack of resources, we need to put the pressure on by forcing the prosecution to prove their cases, no matter how expensive and system draining the tests/labs and trials are to the state.

If the community demands the tests (and demands that our attorneys demand the tests), the experts, and all the other rights that our clients are rightfully entitled to, we will start to see that the system will grudgingly give our clients the justice they deserve. Not because the system wants to, but because once we know our rights, they literally can no longer afford to prosecute our clients for the charges and prison sentences we have for too long assumed and taken for granted that we could not challenge.

Now that the rabbit is out of the hat, it’s time we take back our criminal justice system.

Aram James is a retired Santa Clara County Public Defender, and co-founder of Silicon Valley De-Bug’s Albert Cobarrubias Justice Project. Image from Silicon Valley De-Bug.

http://bit.ly/ihy9KK