Women in blue | January 20, 2012 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

Cover Story - January 20, 2012

Women in blue

Palo Alto Police Department's female officers serve with wit, wisdom and determination

by Sue Dremann

On her third day as a Palo Alto police officer, Agent Marianna Villaescusa got a wake-up call: A man tried to run her down with his car during a traffic stop. She hopped up on her cruiser to avoid being struck, she said.

This story contains 2499 words.

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Staff Writer Sue Dremann can be emailed at sdremann@paweekly.com.


Posted by William, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 20, 2012 at 11:20 am

> put their lives on the line every day ..

Well .. maybe .. but what are the facts? How many women Palo Alto police officers have been killed over the past ten years, and how many have been assaulted?

The US Department of Justice provides this sort of information at a national level—

US Felonious Police Deaths (2001—2010)
Web Link

(Note generally there are a little over 100 police officers killed in the line of duty every year. Those deaths include felonious, accidental, and medical causes--such as stroke or heart attack).

Here in Palo Alto there have been no felonious deaths of officers over the past ten years, but the number of assaults must be larger than zero. It’s unfortunate that the Police don’t make that kind of information available.

Felonious Deaths by Race:
Web Link

Felonious Deaths By Circumstance:
Web Link

Details About Officers Assaulted:
Web Link

Unfortunately, gender does not seem to be broken out in this otherwise detailed layout of assaults on police officers around the country.

From time-to-time, news leaks out of the Police Department of some sort of incident involving police officers, but only a few seem to involve women. Interestingly, one woman police officer shot a man on the Stanford Campus some years ago—when he tried to pin him between the car he was trying to steal and another vehicle.

It would be interesting see some research into the arrest/incident records for male and female police officers.

Posted by Aquamarine, a resident of Stanford
on Jan 20, 2012 at 11:20 am

Even the police in PA experience racism - intersting, but no surprise.

Posted by george, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Jan 20, 2012 at 1:02 pm

William. Why do you want to know the statistics on women vs men in police situations? The whole thrust of the article was that there is no difference in what they are called on to do or what they do.

Too bad people still often refer to gender when evaluating proficiency in this tough job. It's wonderful the women cope with racism and bias as well as they do.

Posted by belife, a resident of Evergreen Park
on Jan 20, 2012 at 1:13 pm

police put their lives on the line by checking to see if your tricycle has reflectors and spend 20 minutes checking your ident. on their phones!!!! life risking! if your a cop, you may experience racism, but you're a cop!!! no citizen can fire a cop. but the cops can harass you because of your race. calling someone a name isn't the only way you experience racism. not being hired for a job because of race is racism. not just calling someone a name. you got called a name, you go back to percent cry in your coffee and wait for your 100 k check money. boo too. you experienced racism and your fellow cops protect your feelings. enjoy your huge paychecks. and , oh, so many upperclass sub drivers whites drive on el camino texting while you are trying to cross a street, their heads down in rush hour traffic! you don't stop them because there paying your salaries.

Posted by William, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 20, 2012 at 1:17 pm

> Why do you want to know the statistics on women vs
> men in police situations?

Because that's what statistical analysis is all about.

> The whole thrust of the article was that there is no difference
> in what they are called on to do or what they do.

Well .. the Weekly is free to say what it wants, but is anything that the Weekly says true? If the article were based on a yearly report on the various aspects of the police department, then we would see from an official source that there is no difference between men and women police officers, from an operational point-of-voew. The article provides no evidence of any research, or any data, to back up its claims.

It's a real shame so many people don't understand that "the media" is pretty much free to say what it wants, with no fact checking, or research, involved.

> It's wonderful the women cope with racism and
> bias as well as they do.

With out HR data on retention rates, internal complaints from women officers, and other job/stress-related data, there is no way to know how women officers are coping.

The Weekly can hardly be considered the source of credible information about organizations it knows little, or nothing, about.

Posted by Aram J, a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 20, 2012 at 2:26 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by Huh?, a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jan 20, 2012 at 3:08 pm

They want to be treated as equals yet according to Sergeant Kara Apple they want the physical standard on the SWAT team to be lowered so they dont have to carry the same weight as the male officers? Seems like they want to be treated as equal but not have to do an equal amount of work. Thats not equality.

Posted by PNL, a resident of another community
on Jan 20, 2012 at 3:19 pm

Of all the female officers how many are actually in patrol? because I'm sure there are an abundance on light duty, desk duty, pregnant, office positions, or administration.

Posted by Hmmmm, a resident of another community
on Jan 20, 2012 at 3:39 pm

Nice story but the pics make me wonder...there are the tough shots with the shotguns and then the one of the female cops petting a puppy. Really? What are you getting at? Tends to support the weaker sex stereotype, but who knows. Sigh.

Posted by jots, a resident of East Palo Alto
on Jan 20, 2012 at 3:45 pm

i'm sure there are some female officers who still work patrol. and why should they lower the physical standards for the SWAT team? if you can't hang with the big beefy swat team, then you shouldn't be allowed on the team. goes for boys and girls. duh.

Posted by Joey, a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jan 20, 2012 at 4:09 pm

More women police officers will lead to more officer involved shootings. The reliance has become increasingly on the threat and use of deadly force, particularly if the suspect weighs twice as much with greater strength, and doped out of his mind. Small framed women officers will have no other choice but to shoot to kill.

Posted by JOTS, a resident of East Palo Alto
on Jan 20, 2012 at 4:20 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by Mark, a resident of another community
on Jan 20, 2012 at 5:46 pm

Thank you for your service ladies. You are an important part of keeping Palo Alto safe!

Posted by Bob, a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jan 20, 2012 at 6:33 pm

I think this article makes female officers seem weak and in need of special treatment. Unfortunately for them criminals don't care if you are a man or woman cop. They see you as a threat to their freedom and if you can't fight for your life, or the life of someone else, man or woman, you shouldnt be a cop. You won't stop the stereotype of women being weak if you ask for everyone to treat you differently. And to the woman cop who said she interacts with her male "subordinates" with no emotion- seems like you have a chip on your shoulder. Acting like a human being is good leadership not weakness like you think it is. Acting like a non-emotional robot makes you easy to dislike and a poor leader.

Posted by H, a resident of Ventura
on Jan 20, 2012 at 6:42 pm

I know officer villa and everyone needs to stop talkin mess. She is the only cop that dont forget us peeps in the southend. Yea shes tuff yea she talks mess but where were the rest of yall when we need help. Sittin in ur fancy homes talkin mess. U shoukd be thnkful this town has her. Thanks villa im still here cuz of u. Here is a villa quote. Honor, intergity no matter how poor u r u can only blame urself if u lose it

Posted by stretch, a resident of another community
on Jan 20, 2012 at 7:06 pm

Maybe they should lower the physical standards; since women are smarter, they can use their brains, instead of brawn. I started working in a "non-traditional" job at the City in 1976. Worked with plenty of neanderthals, and plenty of good men. We women (in all departments having the non-traditional jobs) had a support group to work out the bias and harassment and just make it through the days. My jackhammer weighed 92 lbs. and was the same one the men used. I had men wave me off in stores when their wives were with them, others who wouldn't speak to me at all for years (I lasted 25) and some who outright told the boss that they wouldn't work with me if I made permanent, passed my probation. How things change.......or not. These women police officers do the same work as the men, and, as Gloria Steinem said, "Have to work twice as hard to prove they're half as good".

Posted by jots, a resident of East Palo Alto
on Jan 20, 2012 at 7:28 pm

well said.

and thanks to all of the public safety personnel (police, fire, dispatchers, EMS, etc.) who keep this city and all cities safe.

Posted by Bob, a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jan 20, 2012 at 7:38 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by Huh?, a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jan 20, 2012 at 10:24 pm

Just curious, whose idea was it for this article? Did the Weekly approch the female officers or did they call the Weekly? Editor, can you enlighten me?

Posted by george, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Jan 20, 2012 at 10:59 pm

Interesting how so many writers either didn't read the article very carefully (the parts describing bad situations the women officers faced). Some chose to misinterpret the examples or statements made, or picked sections to comment on that showed their ignorance or bias.

Instead of denigrating the officers, do like H, a resident of Ventura, does and meet and talk to one or more. (I noticed that one writer chose to make comments about H. that could be called racist.) Like you, they're humans who are trying to do a tough job and getting brickbats from many and thanks from only a few.

PNL There are 14 active officers on the force today. 8 are on regular patrol, 2 are working in the detective division, 1 is doing personnel work (a rotating responsibility for officers), 1 is on special assignment, 2 are on light duty. All but the last two are subject to call for action at any time.

Posted by Interesting, a resident of Community Center
on Jan 20, 2012 at 11:22 pm

Well these ladies did one thing today!

They set back all female police officers in the world by 20 or 30 years. I'm sure this article was supposed to be positive towards women but when the officers started talking about what they do in the bedroom and what they wear for undergraments they made themselve look inmature and kind of silly. Not a very good representation of the PAPD.

I have to imagine that female officers around the world are wondering what they were thinkng when they made some of these statements.

It's kind of too bad, but they did do it to themselves.

Very embarrasing and unprofessional. I fell sorry for the normal mature officers who do work hard everyday only to see there hard work and repuation set back so far by just a few regretable comments.

Posted by Aram James, a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 21, 2012 at 12:10 am

I don't know if someone attempted to post under the name Aram James of Barron Park--but I can tell you the post censored 9 hours ago under the namne Aram J --was not me ( Aram James). This sitution was brought to my attention by Wayne Martin. Thanks Wayne for advising me. Who knows maybe there is another Aram --last initial J--in Barron Park.

Aram James

Posted by Too Bad, a resident of Midtown
on Jan 21, 2012 at 10:16 am

[Post removed due to same poster using multiple names]

Posted by Bob, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Jan 21, 2012 at 10:21 am

The article basically says that all is right a well in the Palo Alto PD right? I want to congratulate the men of Palo Alto PD for being tolerant and enlightened. You have obviously created a working environment that, by the women's own admission, is one of the best in the business. I hope the women of Palo Alto PD recognize that and show their appreciation to their co-workers by buying them coffee once in a while.

Posted by false arrest, a resident of South of Midtown
on Jan 21, 2012 at 12:03 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by Lorraine, a resident of Professorville
on Jan 21, 2012 at 12:06 pm

Women striving for true equality in any field or pursuit would not have participated or contributed to this story. By doing so, they set themselves apart and draw differences to the surface. Differences that ideally should be ignored. As a society we have to move beyond that. Quite simply, if we don't want it to be an issue then don't make it one.

Posted by Huh?, a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jan 21, 2012 at 12:24 pm

Lorraine makes an intersting points. This article seems to be self gratifying and does more to draw a division between the sexes than unite them. I'm still not sure what the point of this article was and whose idea it was to write.

Posted by PNL, a resident of another community
on Jan 21, 2012 at 12:43 pm

To George, Thanks for the statistical update on the status of the women at PAPD. This article says the 14 women put their lives on the line everyday. Well you yourself just confirmed that is not true based on your apparent inside information. My sources say of the 14, there are only 5 that are actually assigned patrol duties. This is a far cry from 14 the article speaks of. Another reason to avoid reading articles like these. These articles are only good for stirring up controversy between the men, women and citizens of Palo Alto. The job of a police officer has to be tough enogh as it is with the number of 6' 5" suspects encountered so frequently in Palo Alto.

Posted by Wow, Where is the Professionalism, a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 21, 2012 at 1:07 pm

Some of these interviews completely lack and sense of professionalism.

I agree with earlier poster and appreciate the adults who are female police officers and didn't participate in whatever this was supposed to be.

Why does the concept of Power Rangers stick in my head.

Sad day for PAPD

Posted by george, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Jan 21, 2012 at 3:31 pm

PNL I don't know your source of women on patrol, but I rechecked the latest shift assignments:

There is one lieutenant, one sergeant, 4 agents, and 1 officer on active patrol duty plus 2, not 1, officer on special active assignment. The 2 in the detective division are also exposed to hostile situations on the job. The 1 in personnel can be called out if necessary.

Posted by Lorraine, a resident of Professorville
on Jan 21, 2012 at 4:44 pm

In a comparative light, we would not be discussing the role of women as physicians, attorneys, or any number of other professions. It is not relevant. If women in law enforcement wish equal status, then this was definitely the wrong path in my opinion. I support our law enforcement personnel in every sense. Sad that a handful of women diminish the profession by trivializing their gender. Again, if it truly doesn't matter, then don't bring it up. We've grown past this already.

Posted by Public safety, a resident of another community
on Jan 21, 2012 at 5:03 pm

As someone in the public safety realm, I will not say the reference to sex and or underwear are wrong. What happens on the streets happens and sometimes you need to get on the "street" level. It is out of context for this article, and it shows a poor level of professionalism. You always treat the public with respect, and treat them the same, but your vocabulary and or tone of voice is going to be different when dealing with a lady of the night, and then a Stanford professor. The quote was out of context, but I don't blame the writer or journalist, someone in the public safety realm should be wary of journalists. There is a reason we have a liaison and Public Relations officer. In many departments, that individual must be with the officer being interviewed, or at least have access to the transcripts. Something is fishy here, because I doubt any PR officer would approve some of those comments.

Posted by Ralph, a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 21, 2012 at 6:00 pm

Having read the article and all of the comments, the nay sayers have a point. I have a feeling that this article was simply meant to show the public the women who serve and protect are just as good as the male cops. However the comments made by officer Burt and brown makes excuses about why women can't be on the same level as their male counterparts. I think that both minorities and women want even footing in their career choice but I don't think they want a handout and be treated as weaker, dumber, and less qualified. We should all earn our keep. I feel bad for those involved with this article because the intent was good but I think it just created a riff between the male and females in the department. Overall I think Papd officers are some of the best. I also think that police officers in general don't get enough credit for doing a great job. I saw two officers having lunch today. I told them that they do a great job. They both seemed shocked that someone actually thanked them. Thanks to the women and men of Papd.

Posted by Public Safety is Right, a resident of Midtown
on Jan 21, 2012 at 6:55 pm

Public Safety from above is right regarding the coments made and the fact that most departments would have a trained Public Relatiions Officer with the people being interviewed who would be wary of journalist and realize anything you say will get written about.

Only thing here is the three primary females getting interviewed are long term press officers for the for Palo Alto department whch only makes this all that much worse. They should have known better.

Posted by police issue, a resident of Midtown
on Jan 21, 2012 at 8:33 pm

I agree with "Huh?"
And believe women and men can work well in this situation.

Posted by PNL, a resident of another community
on Jan 21, 2012 at 8:43 pm

George, I was merely pointing out a discrepancy in the article. The way it's written, it's meant for everyone to believe that everyday 14 women officers put their lives on the line. This is false information and not true. For four days a week there are NO female officers on duty due to schedule rotation. The 2 women in detectives, one being on light duty rarely leave the station. The one in training probably has not been outside the station in months as her job does not require her to do patrol or enforcement functions. For the sergeant, agents and officer on patrol, yes I agree they may face the same dangers as their male counterparts but why does this article feel the need to embellish and sensationalize the number of female cops on duty everyday? who cares? When I call for the police I want a capable officer to shows up at my house to help me. I don't care if it's male or female.

Posted by apology needed, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 21, 2012 at 9:04 pm

I find the comments attributed to these female officers to be very unprofessional. I ask that the department issue a statement as to whether the statements were actually what the officers said or if they were misquoted. If their quotes were accurate, I expect an apology from the department for their unprofessionalism as this article was disturbingly juvenile. Does anyone know if there is a way to file a formal request for the department to do this?

Posted by duit tu day, a resident of Evergreen Park
on Jan 21, 2012 at 9:57 pm

file a complaint.

Posted by WOW, a resident of another community
on Jan 22, 2012 at 12:57 am

I wonder how the tension is now at the PAPD.......women vs men.

Posted by Not Rosey, a resident of another community
on Jan 22, 2012 at 12:09 pm

There are many reasons why there are 15 openings on the police department. From lack of leadership from the top, inexperienced administrators, micro management, poor equipment, favoritism in promotions, lack of leadership from the sergeant position, lack of support from city council and city manager and now some officers feel the need to do interviews to talk about something that hasn't been an issue on the department until now. Thank you very much ladies for again bringing the negative spotlight onto PAPD

Posted by Former Female Officer (WOW is Right), a resident of another community
on Jan 22, 2012 at 12:55 pm

WOW is Right. Tensions and Perceptions are blown now.

The tremendous strides that were gained over many years and decades by the women pioneers that led the way at PAPD have been completely squandered by a moment of self serving "look at me" very small group of current female officers. They completely blew this. It's not just the completely rediculous comments about underwear and home life with spouses, it's the hypocritical assertions that they want to be treated equal yet want special treatment or changes to standards.

Like the poster above, I too would like to thank the women who didn't get invovled in this tremendously self indulgent act that will damage relations and perceptions for years to come.

Posted by spicyhulagirl, a resident of another community
on Jan 23, 2012 at 12:45 pm

spicyhulagirl is a registered user.

I am writing this from a female in law enforcement perspective... not lucky enough to work in PA, but have many friends from all over the state and was sent this article by somebody...

Some of the comments made in the article were made by retired personnel or those from an outside agency. I think those people were trying to have some type of personality and humor when being asked uncomfortable questions by a complete stranger. I see how some of you are "offended" and demand an apology... but why? Because you didn't like what you read in the paper?

That being said, what comments would you have liked instead? How about when the reporter asks about the "perks" of the job... you read something like, "I like to help people and save lives. However, the last three people I did CPR on died. Not because I did it incorrectly, but because they were already dead but there were 10 family members screaming and yelling at me to do something to save Grandma." Or how about this, "I had to rip a 2 year old out from his mother's arms because she refused to give him to the paramedics so he could be transported to the nearest trauma room because he just fell out of their 2-story upstairs window and was uncontrollably vomiting. He was dying from a head injury but his mom did not want to let go. I know the feeling because I am a mom, and I was the officer who had to practically pry her grip off him, run downstairs to where the ambulance was waiting, run inside and go to the hospital. I thought I did my job and saved his life by my swift and courageous efforts. The NICU doctors said he had a skull fracture but was stable, and the outlook was he would live. My sgt informed my team 2 days later, 'Team, you did a good job at the baby call, and the Homicide Unit is happy with the report...' Our thoughts were 'Why Homicide?'.... Yup, that little boy died from his injuries..." Does this community want to hear stories like that instead?

I work in a community that is considered "Ghetto" by most. This community is spoiled and ungrateful. You people should be happy that you get the response that you do. Yeah, you pay for it, you "pay my salary...." I heard it all. But this article, obviously written in support of public safety, was taken "personal" and "unprofessional" by those that would never even consider to help out a complete stranger who was calling for help. You are the same community that would rather "bash" your police department rather than going on a ride along to learn what they really do. you're the same people who complain that there are speeders driving down your street, but when you get stopped for speeding, you complain and "blog" about "those cops having nothing better to do" and again, they are out there to protect you and your family.

Thank you to the newspaper reporters for writing a positive piece on PAPD and their female officers.

Posted by PA Resident & Employee, a resident of South of Midtown
on Jan 23, 2012 at 6:41 pm

PA Resident & Employee is a registered user.

Palo Alto in the 90's and 2000's was well known for it's recruitment of women police officers, and has been a leader for it's integrated police force.

Women working in nontraditional jobs often face discriminatory challenges from the public, their co-workers and employers. With the end of affirmative action in 1998 in California the active recruitment of women in many nontraditional jobs for women did not continue to receive the same public support, education,and recruitment attention in the media that these efforts did in the 70's - 90's. In some ways we have regressed as a public because today many women do not believe that they are eligible to hold these jobs, for example: police work, construction work, and/or becoming firewomen.

Why is this an advantage to our community that we have women police officers? Because, physicallity is not the only means of action for our officers, and all our officers male and female are well trained.
The ability to assess, act, and minimize situations is also their very strength.

To ignore that the road to this work is easy for women would be false.
To feel that you constantly have to prove yourself is draining from performing the work. Yet they do prove themselves(!) and have to be 2x as good. Kudos to them for making it through the gauntlet and maintaining their professional work.

The City of Palo Alto police women love what they do, are dedicated to excellent performance, and dedicated to the excellent service they provide to their community of Palo Alto.

Thank our police women when you see them.

Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton
on Jan 23, 2012 at 7:56 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Thanks to the postings by spicyhulagirl and Ralph I went back and reread the article.
My response - Thank you to the City of Palo Alto executives for providing leadership for diversity in your police department, thank you ALL of the officers (male and female) in PAPD for your contribution to this effort, and thank you to ALL the women who serve and have served in PAPD.

Reporters include whatever comments they choose but the facts of PAPD's leadership speak for themselves.

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