The human cost of doing police business and at what cost
Sex and more sex scandals
The human cost of doing police business and at what cost
Sex and more sex scandals
SAN FRANCISCO–In the wake of public outcry over the latest police shooting of an unarmed African American, San Francisco Police Chief Greg Suhr has revived his previous call to equip his offers with electronic stun-guns, also called electronic control weapons (ECWs). With similar cases in Chicago, New York and Miami, New America Media’s Paul Kleyman interviewed Aram James, a leading opponent of ECWs about their risks. James, a former public defender in Santa Clara County, south of San Francisco, spent over 25 years in the public defender system. Now in private law practice, he is a consultant and advocate opposing the use of Tasers. Following are excerpts from the interview.
Question: You’ve been critical of arguments that ECWs are a nonlethal or less lethal alternative to guns. What are the myths you’ve raised regarding Tasers?
Aram James: That Tasers save lives is the first myth. That’s a lie. That Tasers can be used as a substitute for deadly force–that’s not true, that’s not accurate. A 2011 Department of Justice (DOJ) report found that over 200 Americans have died after being shocked by Tasers and the advocacy group Truth Not Tasers has documented over 900 deaths from them since 2004.
They are the most likely of the intermediate-force weapons, which Tasers were designed as, to kill. Other intermediate-force weapons would be a pepper spray, batons, take-downs, verbal commands, canines, etcetera.
Q: That same DOJ report says several police departments have seen reduced injuries by using ECWs as a “less lethal” weapon. What’s your response?
James: The issue is appropriate use. People have said, “Well, Mr. James, wouldn’t you rather be shot by a Taser than a gun?” And I say, of course, but that’s a red herring. If you have a knife or gun I’m not going to use a Taser to stop you. At that point a police officer needs to have a gun. Alternatively, it’s the most lethal intermediate weapon to use with people who are unarmed. A recent study by the Stanford Criminal Defense Clinic makes it very clear that research on Tasers undercuts arguments for adopting them.
If you talk to law enforcement offices who know Tasers, you don’t take a Taser to a gunfight. Tasers are effective about 70 percent of the time in dart mode, and 60 percent of the time directly applied to the body. So, if I have a knife or a gun in a range close enough to use it against a police officer, you absolutely do not use a Taser. The training is shoot center mass to kill.
Q: So, who are police using ECWs on?
James: A 2014 study from the Nebraska ACLU said that three-quarters of Taser blasts they included were used on vulnerable populations. Over and over again studies have shown that disproportionately Tasers are used on young African Americans, Hispanics, the mentally ill, elders and other groups at high risk for injury. Documented cases there included a nine-year-old boy and a 63-year-old man who was confused.
In 2005, the Houston Chronicle reported that local police officers used Tasers on minorities 87 percent of the time. The paper followed up two years later with an analysis of over 1,000 incidents showing almost all were unarmed. And Houston police used Tasers over 120 times on people with mental illness.
Studies also show that many of the most serious injuries or deaths have occurred when officers inappropriately tased someone repeatedly or with a continuous charge.
Q: How did you get involved with this issue?
James: I first got involved in 2003, with the Coalition for Justice and Accountability in San Jose. It came into existence shortly after the murder of a mentally-ill San Jose citizen, Cau Bich Tran. Police shot her in her kitchen seconds after they entered and saw her holding what turned out to be a vegetable peeler.
Members of the coalition, including me, initially supported the use of Tasers, believing they’d save lives, having bought the propaganda and the deceptive ad campaign put out by the major manufacturer, Taser International. But we learned that’s simply not true. The company has also lost lawsuits stemming from injuries or deaths when police used Tasers, also believing their claims.
Q: How are Tasers used in police training?
James: Exposure to Taser blasts used to be a mandatory part of ECW training. But the [nonprofit] Police Executive Research Forum came out with a model policy a few years ago saying there’s too much injury to use Tasers in training situations with officers. And the U.S. military has done the same. Their “Electronic Control Weapon Guideline” states, “Agencies should be aware that exposure to ECW application during training could result in injury to personnel and is not recommended.”
So my question is, if law enforcement knows ECWs are too risky to use even in very controlled training circumstance, why the heck would they want to use it on unarmed citizens in uncontrolled street situations? The question I would put to [Police Chief ] Greg Suhr is, are you willing to use these on your own officers in controlled settings to show that they’re safe? If he’s telling the truth, he’s going to say, “No, we’re not going to do that.”
Bottom line: They’re not safe to use on unarmed people and they’re not safe for police to use against armed suspects.
Q: What are appropriate uses of ECWs?
James: None in my view. The alternative, more community police is the key. When police officers are walking the beat and know people in their communities, and their vulnerabilities they’re much less likely to use force in those circumstance.
Community policing, crisis intervention training–a lot of departments have a small percentage of their officers who have been properly trained in crisis interventions. Getting police out of their cars into the communities, walking the beat, riding their bicycles, walking the neighborhood, there’s plenty there to look at in terms of how we can do community policing in a much more effective and constitutional fashion.
New America Media, News Analysis, Paul Kleyman, Posted: Dec 11, 2015
It’s 2017. Silicon Valley is thriving and the home of Hewlett Packard, Google, Facebook, and many business success stories, the City of Palo Alto California, is unable to balance its books and fund all its obligations.
The City recently announced a possible deficit of $ 4 – 6 Million Dollars. And that’s not all. Unfunded pension liabilities rose 14.8% in ONE year to $43,700,000 for a Total of $338,000,000. $43,700,000 is more than City Sales tax revenue ($31.8 million)More than Property tax revenue ($39.1 million)
More than Hotel Tax revenue ( $ 22 Million) but only 31% of what’s needed to pay retired city employees next year!
In 2009, the general fund budget was around $140 million. This year it is $193 million. The budget is around 33% larger than 7 years ago. What did the extra $53 million per year provide the residents of Palo Alto? Police department staffing is less. Street sweeping was moved from General Fund to utilities We got a Chief Public Relations Exec, a Chief Green Exec, a 2nd Assistant City Manager to do the work of the City Manager, a remodeled city hall lobby (palace), a design competition to build a bike bridge over Highway 101 (the design was too expensive to build and rejected).
What else did we get during this recent ‘recovery?’ A bigger pension liability. CALPERS lost billions of dollars again last year and we (and every other city in California) make up that pension deficit. What is our unfunded liability to CalPers?
Nobody talks about that much.
The City Council expanded office space for years. Now the city’s day time population increases by 3 x as workers pour in during the day and leave at night, contributing little towards the City’s needs. City residents are essentially subsidizing developer projects.
Has the City Government tried to do some good things ? Yes. They tried. City spent about $ 6,000,000 on the Cal Ave. “redesign” which narrowed a busy street from 4 lanes to 2 wiping out some old time tenants. Change is good so long as it doesn’t wipe ‘you’ out. The city built the unused, unwanted and unsafe Jordan School ‘bike lane.’ Created the ‘Road Diet’ for Charleston Avenue which also intensified traffic.
The City sought to retain its valuable and talented employees with increased salaries and benefits (which make up 61 percent of the General Fund). The City says salaries are expected to continue their growth, fueled in part by efforts to “align local salaries with the regional marketplace.”
In other words, unionized and executive city salaries can only go up because we only compare our city to other cities where salaries only go up. There is no competition. Government employees complain that they are so talented that they are worth more than people in private enterprise, even though Government jobs are secure, without competition, with little fear of lay offs and include guaranteed pensions, medical, etc.
In the real working world it’s now widely acknowledged that people will have 10 or 12 real jobs in their lifetimes, spread over 3 or 4 industries. While a Palo Alto City employee will work for just one employer, the city, without fear of job loss, with little stress, for 20-40 years and retire with a guaranteed pension and medical plan. Who gets that in the business world? No one. And the City Pension Liability is titanic.
Put a City Org Chart on line with employee compensation. Transparency. (As wages and benefits increased, access to this information decreased.) What a surprise. Stop giving away fire equipment to Mexico for pennies on the Dollar. Lay off the staff who do “real work” and outsource their jobs to private companies via a competitive bid process that encourages efficiency. Keep a small number of sharp managers who can effectively monitor and negotiate with the hired contractors thus reduce expenses 25%+. Downsize the remaining ‘dead wood.’ End the city’s obsession with the Agenda 21 ‘bike first culture.’
Instead, fund police, fire, roads, parks and infrastructure.
Remember, Palo Alto is not Amsterdam. Forget emotional vanity plans, projects and resolutions like Israel divestment, the 5K Save the Breasts run. Close the zoo, close the children’s theatre, close the museum. Let kids exercise their minds and dream up their own fun.
Outsource Animal Services (as most cities do). Drop the Ten Million Dollar Bike Bridge (we already have a bike bridge). Leave the $ 65 Million Dollar Buena Vista Trailer Park Rescue alone. Do we need to build a brand new slum, or subsidize an old one? Fire the Useless Security Guards on the railroad tracks, especially the ones caught masturbating or sleeping on duty.
Dump the Anaerobic digestion plants at the library. Let weeds grow. Stop wasting council meeting time on bizarre ideas to save the planet, save the decrepit post office, or save the creek flea.
End Mental health support fiascos that bolster children’s self esteem while eliminating their self control. No hidden pay offs or raises to City Administrators, Executives like City Manager Jim Keene who is currently paid more than the Governor and nearly as much as the President of the United States. No more Home Loans or sweetheart deals for City employees.
And most important, No more hideous, expensive public art. Plant trees (that don’t need much pruning).
Any of these ‘solutions’ would be a financial leap out of the spending hole we’re in. But first, we need a City Council that is willing to admit that it can’t make everybody happy. As bizarre as it may sound now, the planets will mis-align again. God wound up the celestial clock with certain markers that come due. Markets go up.
And Markets crap out. People may tire of Fakebook and Internet porno and Amazon junk and the next i-What. The ‘Valley,’ always faster, cooler, newer may just wear us all out with too many versions, upgrades, releases that just fall flat. Sales for the Quarter, the Year, just not enough. And Whoosh. Down it all may go. For a bit. Maybe a long bit.
So we may ‘hope for change,’ that the City will tighten up before the bubble pops. But who’s kidding who? Nobody’s watching the store. Most people are too busy just trying to keep their job, meet the next Quarter’s numbers, house payments, car payments. Whose got time to watch Public Servants, some of whom are eager for higher office and willing to do anything that might buy a vote.
If the City won’t think ahead now, when times are flush, where will we get the money when things turn up ‘snake eyes’ faster than an Uber or Lyft. The time to panic, is before everyone panics. That could be, right now.
A Santa Clara County Superior Court judge has rejected a former Mountain View police officers claim that the city fired him as a result of his military status and for not meeting quotas, city officials announced yesterday.
Nicholas Emmerling, 36 said he was terminated in May 2014 after working for the police department for six years because he was serving in the National Guard, which prevented him from writing the number of tickets and making the number of arrests required.
However, Judge Maureen Folan granted the city’s motion to dismiss the suit on Tuesday. “The court agreed with the city that, as a matter of law, there was no merit Mr. Emmerling lawsuit and found no evidence of any wrongdoing by the city, so he was not entitled to a trial,” said city Attorney Jamie Quinn.
When Emmerling was terminated in 2014, he claims that when he asked why he was being fired, his boss wouldn’t give an explanation, according to the lawsuit. And Emmerling asked another officer if he knew anything, he responded that he heard “stats was an issue “.
However police chief Max also disputed the use of quotas. “I want to be clear, the city does not have quotas “, but also said in a statement “MVPD officers work 10 and 12 hour shifts only a portion of which spent responding to public safety calls.
When they are not responding to those calls, officers are respected to stay proactive, keeping an eye out for criminal activity and, above all keeping our community safe. ”
The city claims Emmerling was terminated for failing to sufficiently engage in self initiated activity and failing to respond to coaching from his supervisors, “according to court documents.
Emmerling argues that he was “an exceptional police officer consistently had excellent performance evaluations, “and that “his self initiated activity was higher then that alleged by the city.”
Emmerling was deployed to Iraq for the second time in 2009 while working as a reserve police officer. He returned from Iraq in 2010, and he submitted his application for a full-time position in February 2012. At this time, another officer, the lawsuit didn’t name, warned Emmerling not to emphasize “his military experience as the department had a history of not promoting or hiring activity actively serving her reservists or national guardsman due to concern that their service somehow demonstrated a lack of commitment to ‘real’ jobs on the police.”
The lawsuit, filed May 20, 2015, said the departments discrimination based on military status is “particularly transparent when reviewing his history of hiring and promoting, which punishes members of the military.”
The lawsuit gives an example of a former unidentified officer who was repeatedly passed over for promotion while she was serving in the Army reserves.
But when she retired from the military, the department immediately promoted her to detective. In her ruling, Folan stated that the man Yuling didn’t “produce sufficient evidence demonstrating that his failure to be promoted and subsequent termination resulted from his military status. ”
As for Emmerling’s claim that other officers were also discriminated against for their military service, Folon said the testimony of other officer, Frank Rivas, failed to show this city took any unfavorable employment actions against him because of military leave.
Emmerling’s lawyers, are Frank Busch, of Kerr & Wagstaffe in San Francisco.
Before retiring as a public defender, Aram James handled thousands of probation violations. In his essay, he writes that to fully evaluate Judge Persky’s sentence of Brock Turner, the public needs to account for what being on probation really means to those convicted of a crime.
Former Stanford student and potential Olympic swimmer Brock Turner, a 19-year-old freshman at the time of this incident, was convicted in March of three felonies: assault with intent to commit rape of an intoxicated or unconscious person, sexual penetration of an intoxicated person, and sexual penetration of an unconscious person. The victim was a 22-year-old female college graduate, from another university, who attended the same alcohol-fueled Stanford fraternity party as Turner.
On June 2nd, Judge Aaron Persky of the Santa Clara County Superior Court, the same judge who presided over the trial, and after reviewing and considering a very detailed probation report prepared by a senior female member of the Santa Clara County Probation Department — including statements from the victim and defendant, and numerous letters attesting to Turner’s good character — sentenced Turner to six months in the county jail, with three years of formal probation. The sentence imposed was entirely consistent with the probation officer’s recommendation. Turner had no prior record.
The perceived leniency of Persky’s sentence set off a near public lynching of both the defendant Turner and Persky. A media and social media lynching that were witnessed by the entire nation. Calls for Persky to resign or face a recall election over the case continue to this day.
What is often overlooked when the public hears about the terms of a sentence, is the gravity of probation, and how perilously close a violation could be, which triggers a lengthy prison comittment.
Before retiring as a career public defender I handled hundreds, if not thousands, of felony probation violations. I can attest to the fact that young offenders, closely supervised on felony probation, frequently fail to make it through formal probation unscathed.
The numerous potential pitfalls of formal probation are an important reason why the six-month initial county jail sentence cannot be viewed in a vacuum. To understand the severity of the punishment, one must understand the part probation plays in the overall sentencing scheme.
Defendants, who may have initially received what appears to be a light sentence for a serious crime, often end up serving some, if not all, of the maximum prison time they could have received at the time of the original sentencing.
In Turner’s case, this means if he violates probation he could well end up serving a prison sentence of three to 10 years, or more — hardly a slap on the hand.
Given the infamous cause celeb status that this case has achieved, Turner is now one of the most reviled defendants in American. He will undoubtedly be closely scrutinized on probation. Turner will be on a very short leash.
A defendant on probation is spared prison only so long as he agrees to severe limits on his freedom. The terms and conditions of probation define the quality and limits of a defendant’s freedom.
Even a minor violation — e.g., failure to report to your probation officer, even on one occasion, or a one-time violation of a no drug or alcohol condition — can result in the revocation of probation and imposition of a previously suspended prison sentence.
So what does three years of formal probation really mean in the context of the Brock Turner case? Based on the nature of Turner’s convictions, the terms and conditions of his probation are multiple, complex, restrictive and appropriately oppressive.
As an example, while on probation, Turner was ordered by Persky to participate in and complete an approved sex offender program, of not less than one year, and up to the entire three-year term of his probation. His failure to complete this program, or for that matter any other program ordered by the court, would trigger a revocation and a potential prison sentence.
As part of the sex offender program, Turner will be required to submit to polygraph exams to monitor and ensure compliance with the program.
As a further public safety measure, Turner will be required to waive his psychotherapist-patient privilege, allowing his therapist to speak directly to Turner’s probation officer re his progress or lack thereof.
Turner must register annually as a sex offender for life, and each time he changes his residence. He must reregister within a few days of moving. Failure to register in a timely manner would be both a new crime, allowing for the potential of new charges and a separate prison sentence, and a violation of his current probation.
Turner must submit to drug and alcohol testing to ensure he is complying with the terms of his probation, that he not consume alcohol or drugs, or frequent places where alcohol is sold or consumed as a primary business.
He must waive his Fourth Amendment rights, to be free of illegal and warrantless searches, and thus submit to random searches and seizure of his person, vehicle and place of residence, at any time.
Upon an alleged violation of probation, Turner, would be returned to court to face a hearing. Unlike with a new offense, there is no right to a jury trial when charged with a probation violation. A judge sitting alone hears the matter.
To find a violation the judge need only determine that the evidence proves the violation by a preponderance of the evidence, not proof beyond reasonable doubt, as required at a jury trial.
If the judge, after hearing evidence of the alleged violation, concludes that Turner has in fact violated his probation, the judge can then sentence him to the maximum sentence, he faced at the time of the original sentencing.
In my experience, judges assigned to hear probation violations are some of the most putative jurists on the bench. Need I say, that given the media attention and wave of vitriol directed at Tuner, he will be the closest watched probationer in America.
Given the dizzying probationary maze faced by Turner, it is hard to quarrel with Persky’s initial sentence.
As a society ruined by the scorch of over incarceration, it is critical that we have judges who have the discretion to encourage a rehabilitative model-first approach, while at the same time imposing severe conditions of probation that maximize public safety and protect us from truly violent predators.
The sentence in the Turner case more than adequately balances both the public safety and the rehabilitative purposes of probation.
Many of the same progressive voices who have spoken out long and passionately against over incarceration, mass incarceration, the disproportionate sentences imposed on the poor and people of color, are now doing an about face in the Turner case.
They are shouting out that more of the same cruelty and barbarism should have been handed down in the Turner case. The same mentality that has brought us to our current failed state of mass incarceration.
Instead of blindly demanding that a white male elite be sentenced to prison for his first offense, the better logic is to demand the same measure of justice and mercy, for similarly situated defendants of color and the poor. We must look to rehabilitation and restorative justice first, and harsh and unforgiving prison sentences, only where absolutely necessary.
The vengeful model of sentencing has proven over and over again to lead to recidivism, overcrowded prisons, and little or no true comfort or safety, for the victims.
We should support Persky’s rehabilitation-motivated sentence, as an extension of the progressive movement’s call, for an end to our country’s failed mass incarceration polices.
(A version of this article was originally published in the Daily Journal.)
A rotten egg incubated by reality television and hatched by retrograde thinking about women and the world, the presidency of Donald Trump is creating anxiety, fear, and a growing sense among progressives that an American psycho now occupies the White House. Many, like me, are turning to John Steinbeck for understanding. But that consolation has its limits.
As Francis Cline observed recently in The New York Times, one positive result of the groundswell of bad feeling about Trump is that “[q]uality reading has become an angst-driven upside.” Anxious Americans yearning to feel at home in their own country have a rekindled interest in exploring their identity through great literature: “Headlines from the Trump White House keep feeding a reader’s need for fresh escape.” “Alternate facts,” when “presented by a literary truthteller” like John Steinbeck, are “a welcome antidote to the alarming versions of reality generated by President Donald Trump.”
The literary tonic recommended by Cline may or may not have the power to clear the morning-after pall of Trump-facts and Trump-schisms (the two sometimes interchangeable) afflicting our panicked public dialogue, our beleaguered press, and, for those as apprehensive as I am, the American-psycho recesses of our collective mind. Perhaps counter-intuitively, his prescription for mental wellness includes works by a group of novelists with a far darker worldview than that of Steinbeck, who felt an obligation to his readers to remain optimistic about the future whenever possible.
The writers mentioned by Cline include Sinclair Lewis (It Can’t Happen Here), George Orwell (1984), Aldous Huxley (Brave New World), William Faulkner (The Mansion), Jerzy Kosinski (Being There), Philip Roth (The Plot Against America), and Philip Dick (The Man In The High Castle). As an antidote to Donald Trump, they are bitter medicine. Is Steinbeck’s better?
As the Trump administration pushes plans to litter federally protected Indian land with pipelines (“black snakes”) that threaten to pollute the water used by millions of Americans, John Steinbeck’s writing about the dangers of environmental degradation seems more relevant, and more urgent, than ever. To mark the 100th anniversary of Steinbeck’s birth in 2002, the award-winning author and journalist Bil Gilbert wrote an insightful article on the subject for The Smithsonian entitled “Prince of Tides.” In it he notes that “Steinbeck’s powerful social realism is by no means his only claim to greatness. He has also significantly influenced the way we see and think about the environment, an accomplishment for which he seldom receives the recognition he deserves.”
Judging from “The Literature of Environmental Crisis,” a course at New York University, Gilbert’s point about Steinbeck’s stature as an environmental writer of major consequence is now more generally accepted than he thinks. Studying what “it mean[s] for literature to engage with political and ethical concerns about the degradation of the environment” the class will read “such literary and environmental classics as Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring and John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath” to “look at the way literature changes when it addresses unfolding environmental crisis.”
“Before ‘ecology’ became a buzzword,” Gilbert adds, “John Steinbeck preached that man is related to the whole thing,” noting that Steinbeck’s holistic sermonizing about nature’s sanctity reached its peak in Sea of Cortez, the literary record of Steinbeck’s 1940 expedition to Baja California with his friend and collaborator Ed Ricketts, the ingenious marine biologist he later profiled in Log from the Sea of Cortez. In it Steinbeck seems to foresee how America’s precious national resources—and collective soul—could one day become susceptible to the manipulations of an amoral leader like Donald Trump:
There is a strange duality in the human which makes for an ethical paradox. We have definitions of good qualities and of bad; not changing things, but generally considered good and bad throughout the ages and throughout the species. Of the good, we think always of wisdom, tolerance, kindness, generosity, humility; and the qualities of cruelty, greed, self-interest, graspingness, and rapacity are universally considered undesirable.
And yet in our structure of society, the so-called and considered good qualities are invariable concomitants of failure, while the bad ones are the cornerstones of success. A man – a viewing-point man – while he will nevertheless envy or admire the person who through possessing the bad qualities has succeeded economically and socially, and will hold in contempt that person whose good qualities have caused failure.
“Donald Trump has been in office for four days,” observes Michael Brune, the national director of the Sierra Club, “and he’s already proving to be the dangerous threat to our climate we feared he would be.” The executive actions taken by Trump in his first week as president (“I am, to a large extent, an environmentalist, I believe in it. But it’s out of control”) appear to fulfill Steinbeck’s prophecy about the triumph of self-interest over social good. That’s a hard pill to swallow for anyone who cares about the planet.
Whether Trump becomes the kind of full-throttle fascist described in It Can’t Happen Here remains to be seen. Sinclair Lewis’s fantasy of a future fascist in the White House appeared the same year as Tortilla Flat, Steinbeck’s sunny ode to multiculturalism and the common man. Unfortunately, I’m not as optimistic about the American spirit as John Steinbeck felt obliged to be when he wrote that book more than 80 years ago. I’m afraid that the man occupying the high castle in Washington today is an American psycho with the capacity to do permanent harm, not only to the environment, but to the American soul Steinbeck celebrated in his greatest fiction.
This piece was written for Steinbeck Now. It is being published here with the author’s permission.
However, for those who live just a stone’s throw away, in East Palo Alto, it’s more like an International Border crossing with unspoken conditions of travel appearing to be specially designed for the vast majority of African Americans and Latino Americans who live in East Palo Alto.
Fear of being pulled over
The welcoming sign, for many represents’ a sign of fear as one East Palo Alto business owner, Elwyn Rainer of Rainers Service Station put it; “The majority of Hispanics and African Americans are afraid to travel over to Palo Alto in fear of being pulled over and searched for no reasons”.
“Research has verified that people of color are more often stopped than whites” as reported in one study by the Office of Justice Programs. In fact, Mr. Rainer describes himself as the “Poster Child” of what he perceives as racially motivated vehicle stops by the Menlo Park and Palo Alto police departments based solely upon the color of his skin.
In one of Mr. Rainer’s many vehicle stops the officer did state the reason why he was pulled over. In one stop, it was because as he put it, “your bumper went over the white pedestrian crossing line”.
“It doesn’t matter what I’m being pulled over for I’m always asked; “Are you on probation, recently released from jail all asked all in one breathe” as he put it.
That’s when the line of questioning intensifies; “Do you mind if we search your vehicle”? He said, “It makes you afraid so I always consent out of fear”. Mr. Rainer admittedly said that he does have a “colorful past” and did not disclose what the past was. None the less he no longer travels over to Palo Alto.
Many of the perceived unspoken travel requirements necessary before entering Palo Alto by East Palo Alto citizens include, functioning taillights, current registration, license, both plates, insurance, no strong odors and having the right tattoos of all things.
Recent border crossing from East Palo Alto
That was the experience of one recent border crossing detainment by the Palo Alto police department involving two East Palo Alto Latino citizens while traveling on University Ave.
She relates, “They had stopped us because the car didn’t have the front license plate; he first explained why he had pulled us over but then right after he asked my boyfriend if he has ever been in trouble before.
He asked how old were we and took down my information, within seconds he asked my boyfriend to step out the car and questioned him about his tattoos on both arms (his last name).
After minutes of having him by the police car, the cop asked me to get out the car and asked me to empty out my pocket’s and also he searched my boyfriend and the car.
He had said it smelled like the illegal substance Marijuana, when he had searched the car he didn’t find anything. After he was done he kept questioning both of us about where did we live and what we’re we doing in Palo Alto”.
Just being stopped by the police under any circumstance can be nerve racking in itself. However, we believe the nature or line questions asked in these two cases in our opinion appears to be discriminatory and biased in nature with the intent of targeting minorities and or the disenfranchised.
Not so! And in explaining the vehicle stop which occurred recently on University Ave, Palo Alto police Lieutenant now Captain Zachary Perron states; “every vehicle stop is different. There are many reasons why an officer might request an occupant to get out of a vehicle during a detention; in fact, case law allows officers to do it on any stop.
It would be irresponsible for me to speculate about why any officer would ask occupants to step out of a vehicle on any particular stop, since each stop is different.”
However, “building better community relations is still one of the primary concerns of law enforcement throughout the country. That is why every action by a law enforcement officer has a bearing on the relationship of the agency with the community. Since most citizens come into contact with law enforcement officers at traffic stops, this becomes a critical element for law enforcement agencies in their overall public relations effort.
“Traffic enforcement offers agencies a way to build bridges to the community, one traffic stop at a time”. As cited by the International Association of Chiefs of Police
Disturbing questions remain
Were disappointed but not surprised that Lieutenant Zachary Perron did not address the all important questions of; “have you ever been arrested or are you on probation” as the first questions asked in the two East Palo Alto vehicle stop examples.
We beleive the average citizen no matter what their ethnicity, would find these questions to be derogatory, inflammatory, offensive and discriminatory and in no way designed to build trust especially within minority communities.
We left a voice mail message with East Palo Alto Police Information Officer Veronica Barries seeking her comments. She has yet to return our call. Lastly, we strongly feel as suggested by the International Association of Chiefs of Police that “The first words spoken by the officer may very well determine the tone of the encounter and even the eventual outcome” in building better community relationships especially among minorities.
Profiling Atherton http://kentbrew.github.io/profiling-atherton/