Who should regulate the Massage Therapy Profession – The Health Department or Police?

It was Deja Vu all over again just like the proposed city ordnance to ban overnight parking within the city limits of Palo Alto impacting the disenfranchised.

The police, namely Lt. April Wagner aka Chan/Wagner in full uniform with her loaded sidearm clearly stood ready to enforce whatever draconian ordinance is decided upon.

I personally know Ms. April Wagner and she is a text book example of a detective known to be aggressive and deceptive.  In my opinion she’s a bad cop.

How quickly we have forgotten that Lt. April Wagner was found by a court of law to have violated the constitutional rights of longtime resident Tony Ciampi and it is alleged she fabricated police reports and evidence.

This in itself, should give rise and alarm us all to the potentiality of Lt. April Wagner and her enforcement team falsifying evidence collected during massage business raids.

In the Ciampi case, the city of Palo Alto paid out a 35 thousand dollar settlement for her mistakes and those of her colleagues.

What I also found alarming and disturbing among other things in her report to city council, was that she made it a point of having readily available and accessible massage therapy client lists, for unannounced police raids for any potential violations.

Here’s how a portion of the newly created ordinance reads….

4.54.120 Inspection by official

“Any and all investigating officials of the city shall have the right to enter massage establishments from to  time during regular business hours to make reasonable inspection to observe and enforce compliance with building, fire, electrical, plumbing or health regulations.  A warrant shall be obtained whenever required by law.”

[absent of exigent circumstances]

It was also evident from last night’s discussion that Wagner was ill prepared and unable to produce any real hard data or for that matter, unable to address any issues or complaints (sexual assaults or activities) evolving massage therapy businesses or otherwise within Palo Alto or in attracting the criminal clientele. This data was non-existent prompting several council members to wonder and suggest if we even have a problem at all.

What’s the big deal?  Why do anything as councilman Larry Klien mentioned. One thing is for sure there’s an obvious divide between reflexology, massage therapy and a simple foot rub.  The reflexology professionals are asking for an exemption to the city’s proposed ordinance along with the foot massage therapists.

But wait, what about the foot massage business. Why should they be forced to comply and compete right alongside the massage therapists and reflexologist professionals with expensive training and licensing as mandated by the State of California?

Again, why is the police and the city’s attorney’s office pushing for state compliance and why are the police involving itself in the administration of an occupation some claim is equal to doctors and lawyers.

Essentially, Wagner’s response was, she worries about Happy Feet causing injury by putting a client in a strangling toe hold. This whole process seems absurd in my opinion.

If there are complaints with the level of service or for that matter health issues, get the health department involved and not the police in all non-criminal activities or behavior.  It just seems like the police and our lawmakers are attempting to criminalize the entire massage therapy profession by placing a strangle hold on legitimate businesses.

City of Palo Alto Purposed Massage Ordinance


4 Replies to “Who should regulate the Massage Therapy Profession – The Health Department or Police?”

  1. Great article, Mark. I was there in person and I believe the police are really out of hand here. The fees for massage and reflexology smack of a shake down. There has not been a issue, especially with well run high value establishments like Happy Feet.

    Dainuri Rott, Palo Alto resident entrepreneur and happy Happy Feet customer.

  2. I speak tonight for the many other people who could not attend this meeting on the night of such a popular U.S. holiday! We feel strongly against the revision of the Palo Alto massage ordinance. The new ordinance will take away our ability to choose the alternative healing techniques we prefer. For some, it will mean no access at all.

    In particular, I represent the great number of extremely pleased customers of the business: HAPPY FEET. They provide a most valuable service at such a reasonable price that one can give a hundred percent tip, and still pay less than any traditional massage place in Palo Alto.

    I moved to Palo Alto about thirty-five years ago to complete a Ph.D. at Stanford, and have experienced a wide range of traditional and alternative health services all over the Bay Area and beyond, including many at famous massage schools. None of them have had the tremendous healing affect I get at HAPPY FEET.

    The Chinese-trained people at HAPPY FEET truly have a gift. I appreciate that they do not perform traditional, U.S.-based massage. Instead, they seem to open areas of the feet, and then encourage energy from the rest of the body to move out.

    Perhaps barbers and pedicure technicians understand this process when they rub peoples’ legs or neck even though their job could involve only toenails or hair. They do not need massage permits to continue their business, yet the revised ordinance will force HAPPY FEET people to have them.

    If people feel concerned about potential sexual activity during alternative healing sessions, they should look into places where people get serviced in private while not wearing clothes. They do not have to worry about the fully clothed, group environment of HAPPY FEET.

    The drive for some of the revised ordinance may have come from the more expensive, traditional massage places that view HAPPY FEET as undesired
    competition. However, putting HAPPY FEET out of business may not get them additional customers because many of us would rather travel to distant cities to get the service we prefer.

    The State of California supports alternative healing, and would also support Palo Alto’s ordinance with an exemption for HAPPY FEET. Mountain View made sure that HAPPY FEET could stay in business. I suggest that Palo Alto does the same.

    The most effective way to heal our planet starts with the healing of each individual. I believe that this ultimately involves the release of body energy the way it happens during a session at HAPPY FEET. Please, do not force them out of business with an ordinance modification. Thank you.

  3. Hi Mark,

    Thanks for being vigilant re all matters involving further potential erosion of our constitutional rights–including the right to privacy and the right to seek out the health care of our choice—and to manage our own bodies.

    Your point is well taken that there seems to be a parallel between the effort to criminalize car dwellers in this city–without any hard evidence of any sustained pattern of law violations by said car dwellers–and the apparent lack of any substantial complaints directed against the folks who practice the healing arts at Happy Feet.

    I must admit I am not familiar with this particular healing art–but absent proof that the folks at Happy Feet are engaged in unsafe/unhealthily practices—I am highly suspect that the police have a motive to close down this establishment that has little or nothing to do with their stated reasons.

    My position is that the state has the burden of proof to establish that some unsafe or unhealthy practice or practices are occurring on the premises of Health Foot—before actions to close down this business should be allowed to proceed. You have also made a very solid point in suggesting that this is really an issue that should be looked at by health and safety officials–not the police– at least until there is some indication that criminal activity is afoot.

    Are we dealing with a case of discriminatory enforcement—i.e., a situation where the city/police have chosen to come down hard on one business while looking the other way while real crime goes uninvestigated ? Or are we dealing with a case of racial profiling? –that is going after a business not because of any illegal practices but rather because of the ethnic or racial makeup of those who own and operate the business.

    I don’t have answers to the above questions–at least not at this point –but I think asking the questions may focus our investigation in a more productive manner/direction.

    Is the threat to require customer logs accessible to the police without probable cause of illegal activity —a way to intimidate potential customers by insinuating that if their names surface during a routine search/drop in by the police that the customer will be assumed to have been engaged in unlawful conduct?

    I am glad you are on this story and hope you are able to reveal more details to the public re the true motive for this proposed action as the matter/issue is more closely scrutinized. Again–thanks for bringing this important local issue to the attention of the public.

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