Racial profiling raises its ugly head once again for the PAPD

It begins early with the PAPD

The story which follows was original published back in September of last year and since then not much has changed following Dennis Burns appointment as our new police chief in Palo Alto.

It would seem the pervasive sickness and psychosis of racial profiling among the rank and file of the PAPD, it’s police chief Dennis Burns and city council leadership continues to linger unabated.

What prompted this latest story was my encounter with a young African-American whom I met on the street by chance.

I’ve been working on a number of racial profiling stories since the untimely departure of former police chief Lynne Johnson who resigned in disgrace after ordering her officers to stop ALL African-Americans wearing a “Do-Rag”.

In this most recent case, I asked this young man the litmus paper test on weather or not things have changed since Lynne Johnson’s fall from grace.  I was startled by his candor and forth-rightfulness.

This man recently moved to Palo Alto and in the short time he has lived here [five months] he’s been stopped five times by the PAPD.

In each and every case, they have asked for his driver’s license registration and proof of insurance.  BTW, these questions are not unique of African-Americans or for that matter with any other race.

But, what followed were questions unique it seems, questions which appear to be only presented to the African-American and Latino population which occur at an alarmingly rate disproportionally nationally.

1. Are you on probation?

2. Have you ever been arrested?


PAPD Luis Parham in action on the African-American community

On one stop he related that he was the passenger in a car being driven by a white female. In this stop, the officer came around to the passenger side of the window and asked these very same questions.  This left me speechless.

My god, “Living In Palo Alto While Black” has become status-quo….What is even more troubling is the fact that this man works as the  director of youth services for a well known national organization San Francisco.

Prior to Dennis Burns unanimous promotion to Palo Alto Police Chief, Mr. Burns was second in command and right hand-man to then acting police chief Lynne Johnson.

Surprisingly, this same person remained silent throughout the tumultuous scandal which ultimately lead to Lynne Johnson’s disgraceful resignation.

We beleive, chief Dennis Burns continues to promote, foster, sanction and encourages his officers to engage in unconstitutional racial profiling questions with the intent of terrorizing the African-American and Latino Palo Alto citizens and outlining communities.

Like his predecessor Lynne Johnson, chief Dennis Burns must resign.  See related stories below:

Police Chief Lynne Johnson Resigns Part One

Police Chief Lynne Johnson Resigns Part Two

Living In Palo Alto While Black September 12, 2010

Black Like Me

Racism is nothing new even to me as a Latino.   I do recall on one occasion being called a “Wet Back” an inference to all Mexican Americans, and all Non-Whites having crossed the Rio Grande river to enter the land of the brave and home of the not so free.

Racism runs deep in America and one knows this greater than the native American Indians.   I recall a very close friend  Selo (Sylvester) Black Crow.

His great, great grandfather took part in many of the peace treaties between the Oglala Lakota Sioux Nation and Washington later to be broken time and time again.

He was in fact and still is despite his passing to greater peaceful pastures where the true White Buffalo roam, the legendary Chieftain of the Pine Ridge Indian reservation.

His stories were endless including the brutality meted out by the police.

As he related, he was simply made the target of their personal hatred of Native American Indians and from my interviews with many African Americans who are Living In Palo Alto While Black that seems to be the case as well.

In fact, the beating he received from the police was so severe he suffered hearing loss.  This was my first hand account on a personal level concerning police brutality and it would not be the last.

Like most all of us, everyone seems to think in terms of Africa Americans being the only ones who have suffered racism.  This is simply not true.   It’s pandemic very perverse and unfortunately, impacts all races and ethnicity.

If we take a closer look at the demographics here in Palo Alto, by and large, the dominant race appears to be white.

And if we look even closer at the arrest records occurring in Palo Alto we find that its disproportionally black’s and Latino’s stopped and arrested causing much friction and heated debates in some circles. (see IPA audit reports)

Foot note: PAPD has stated tail light stops are an effective tool in catching known or unknown felons. (IPO officer Dan Ryan)

This debate reached critical mass when former Police Chief Lynne Johnson resigned in disgrace for ordering officers to stop all black males with a doo-rag in response to a rash of robberies alleged to have been committed by a black male.

It later turned out to be the case.  But for that matter, it could have been any race.

Current Police Chief Dennis Burns continues to repair the damage done by his predecessor holding secret behind closed door meetings with a select group of handpicked citizens from the community.

The general public is disallowed and news reporters are prevented from attending – We call this – police democracy in action.  I would say, transparency and open government is non existent in Palo Alto.

Racial profiling by the PAPD is their dirty little secret best kept under wraps by Chief Burns and far from, far from the public’s eye.

Of all the African Americans I have interview in Palo Alto thus far, all have related a disturbing sorted tale of racism by the hands of the PAPD.

Watch out and *inspect your tail lights before entering Palo Alto from East Palo Alto.  Its a sure way to get stopped especially if your driving while “Black” let alone Living In Palo Alto While Black.

*From the archives – East Palo Alto Residents Ask: “Am I a Suspect?”


“A pattern of racial traffic stops in Palo Alto is statistically clear. 

At a *Rally Against Racial Profiling* on November 9 Goro Mitchell, East Palo Alto activist and Planning Commission member, said that 56 percent of all traffic stops for “vehicular failure”, such as tail or brake lights not working, are for cars driven by African Americans or Latinos.

Two young men, one Latino and one African American, have created a T-shirt to draw attention to this injustice.”

The story “Black Like Me” the book featured, is about a white man who decides to alter his skin color chemically and live the life as a black male.

There is something to be said about living, understanding and walking in the same shoes as a black person through the segregated south as a white man.  But, in reality it could be anywhere USA or for that matter the world.

It just so happens living in Palo Alto while black, is a little dirty secret Chief Dennis Burns and city council would much rather not have you be aware of.  This compelling story – “Black Like Me” is sure to become an all time American classic.

So the question is.  Will racism ever be eliminated from the hearts and minds of humanity?  Well,  I believe it’s happening right here in our community now!!  And it’s no secret…..