Town Square

Post a New Topic

What Police Can Teach Us

Original post made by David Taylor on Sep 25, 2007

"A program designed to give parents skills in dealing with teens with significant behavior problems will be offered by the Palo Alto Police Department.

'It's more hands-on than psychological,' said Police Agent Donna Arndt, one of the two officers who will facilitate the 13-week class for parents."

--"Palo Alto police to begin parenting program", 10 Sep. 2007, Palo Alto Online

According to FBI statistics, the most common known cause of murder are arguments (400% more frequent than juvenile gang murders). So if we are going to have programs where police teach skills to deal with problems that can lead to crime, then society would achieve the greatest value from a program of police teaching conflict resolution skills. That is, police should be teaching people how to resolve their differences without resorting to force. After all, when you think of peaceful resolution of conflicts, who comes to mind? Certainly not counselors or mediators. Right - Mahatma Ghandhi, Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., and the police.

Alcohol plays a significant role in arguments that lead to brawls and murders. So it would also make sense for police to teach skills to prevent alcohol use or abuse. After all, when you want a group free of alcohol-related problems, who you gonna call - Alcoholics Anonymous? Of course not! Right - the police. Oh - wait. According to a 1999 FBI report: "Estimates show that alcohol abuse among police officers in the United States is approximately double that of the general population". But we all know you can't believe the FBI - they're just a bunch of cop-haters with an anti-police agenda.

Domestic violence always ranks high in the crime charts. So let's have more police teaching us the skills needed for a harmonious household. After all, you never read about domestic violence by police, right? Oh - wait. The National Center For Women and Policing, founded by the first woman chief of a major U.S. city, reports that three studies indicate that domestic violence is 2-4 times more common among police families than American families in general.

We could also learn from police by applying their tactics in other areas. For instance, we could approach the domestic violence problem as we do with gang violence: let's have police sweep streets and houses, busting anyone with known (or suspected) marriage ties, or sporting marriage insignia ( aka "wedding rings"). Surely it's the next big cash cow for federal grant funds. Or, since police statistics indicate that family violence (including spouse abuse, child abuse, elder abuse, or violence against any family member) comprises nearly 33% of all police-recorded violence (dwarfing incidents of gang violence), let's broaden our vision to a war on family terrorism and reel in family violence at the source, in the hot hangouts of "familysters": let's swoop down on the Chuck E. Cheeses, to root out anyone with known (or suspected) ties to a family.

Clearly police are uniquely positioned to provide innovative and effective strategies for dealing with our social problems, and therefore should be entrusted with teaching those strategies to the rest of us. If we are to remain a civilized free society, not a police state, then our only recourse is to get police to tell us how to live every aspect of our lives.

Comments (18)

Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 25, 2007 at 9:04 am

I am not sure if I agree with you wholeheartedly on this one. Yes, I can see that there are times when the police can show us and in fact teach the legal end of this question. However, I am not sure if I want to be taught social skills by the police. I have nothing against the police as individuals, but since they primarily are to be looked on as police, not teachers or moral leaders, or guidance counsellors or mentors or so on, then I would be concerned about asking them to help advise me in a particularly difficult hypothetical situation. How can I be sure that if I said I was worried that my child was taking drugs, as an example, that they would not give me some advice, but put my child on a "possible watch list" which he was only there for because of what I had said.

I do not like the idea of a police state. I am concerned that this idea could be taken to the level of giving the police a ready made list of who to look out for. If I have problems with my teens, I would much rather go to a professional, secular or religious, or anything else rather than the police.

Posted by Apples, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 25, 2007 at 10:48 am

Ha ha ha Parent !

I am not sure I read the original post by David the same way as you did. Reading his post, I detect a tongue-in-cheek sarcasm that I find quite funny. As a matter of fact, I believe David finds that it is NOT a good idea to have police do the type of "counseling" mentined in the article. So in the end, it seems you two agree.

Add me to the group of people who are not at all enthusiastic about the idea of police taking over the role of "counselors".


Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 25, 2007 at 12:24 pm

OK I admit I skimmed the post. There was another thread a week ago that seemed to think this was a good idea and I was sceptic then and still am. Therefore, I acted too quickly. My apologies to the original poster.

Posted by Sean, a resident of Greater Miranda
on Sep 26, 2007 at 12:25 am

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by Ed, a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 26, 2007 at 1:48 am

Maybe if you parents can control your kids, the police wont need to have programs as such as this. Again the articles says this is for SIGNIFICANT behavioral problems.

Posted by Apples, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 27, 2007 at 11:00 pm

Ed, I find your comment agressive and uncalled for.

My kids are well-behaved. They have never had any need for outside counseling. They have never had any brush in with the law or police or any major problem at school.

Yet I still think it is a bad idea for police to do counseling.

Posted by Ed, a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 28, 2007 at 1:48 am


Obviously if your kids a well-behaved, then my comments were not for you (and I apologize if you felt that they were for you). I am talking about the kids who are setting fires, vandalizing our town, and abusing drugs.

And if the parents can't/won't take care of the kids, guess what...the courts will.

Posted by David Taylor, a resident of Ventura
on Sep 30, 2007 at 11:05 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by David Taylor, a resident of Ventura
on Oct 2, 2007 at 9:11 am

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by David Taylor, a resident of Ventura
on Oct 3, 2007 at 8:45 am

To Palo Alto Online staff:

I need some help.

I posted - but the post was removed. I don't know why. I read the "Terms of Use", but found no cause for the removal.

So I tried posting again, but with the name of the police employee removed, guessing that was the sensitive issue. But that post was also removed.

Rather than continue this trial-and-error approach, can you please indicate why the posts are being removed? That would save me time in posting, save you time in removing.


Posted by Tyler Hanley, online editor of Palo Alto Online
on Oct 3, 2007 at 12:29 pm

Tyler Hanley is a registered user.

Your posts criticize, some might say attack, a specific person. Personal attacks are not permitted on Town Square. Whether you identify the person by name or not isn't really the issue, since the person's identity can be construed rather easily from the information in your post.

Posted by David Taylor, a resident of Ventura
on Oct 4, 2007 at 1:15 am

Thanks for the clarification. I understand that posting implies acceptance of the terms of use. That's why I appreciate any guidelines you can offer, to help me better understand what I'm agreeing to accept. But I must apologize in advance: the need for clarity makes this lengthy reading.

Can you explain how you distinguish a criticism from an "attack" and tell me which category my post belonged to?

Given the broad language of the terms of use, I assumed my best hope for understanding the rules was to survey the posts to see what was acceptable. I found that posts routinely criticize (attack?) a specific person. The post below has just 6 lines, but 3 of them drop the name of City Attorney Gary Baum:

Gary Baum gets a bonus?
The Gary Baum who recommended the city pay Enron $20 Million because he was afraid of litigation? The Gary Baum whose idea of open government is to keep everything the city does secret and is willing to go to court to keep it secret?

Instead of getting a bonus he should be fired.

When he was hired one council member (perhaps the current mayor) said that she was convinced the city had found the best person for the job. I suggest they could have thrown darts at the Lawyers page of the phone directory and gotten a better city attorney
End quote

This lead comment below Diana Diamond's blog goes beyond criticizing actions, positions, or policies to questioning the motivation of a specific person:

Under the leadership of our current mayor, Yoriko Kishimoto, our city council and city hall staff have reached a nadir of incompetence and/or total lack of caring for the citizens they were elected/paid to serve.
Clearly the the stink emenates from the top--our mayor is totally unconcerned about the city and has chosen to utilize her year (thank goodness that's all) as mayor to push her pipe dream of climate change and take part in a series of photo-ops to try to raise her profile for who knows what selfish reason.
End quote

And this post strikes me as a criticism of the character and integrity of City Manager Frank Benest:

SEE FRANK'S WEEKLY MEMO BELOW See if you agree with me that this is the most self-serving bunch of BS ever. What planet are you on, Frank? The more you talk, the wider your credibility gap becomes.
End quote

The examples of posts criticizing a specific person are too numerous to repost, yet establish an accepted standard that make my post appear mild. My post did not speculate on the motivations or character of the subject. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Given this, can you please offer more insight into the process that placed my post beyond the limits, while those above and many like them are deemed acceptable? Or perhaps there was a misunderstanding, and you will now permit my post?

Thanks for your patience.

Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 4, 2007 at 1:39 am


Just wanted to say Bravo while your post is still uncleansed. The editing is inconsistent. I really think if we're talking about matters of public record--i.e. an opinion of something a public figure or elected official has done--then the editors are being counterproductive by excising reference. It robs our posts of precision and makes it sound like a poster is making vague allegations when the poster might be talking about a very specific incident-maybe misunderstandings that could be cleared up.

Tyler and co. Seriously, you need to rethink your policies here. It really feels like you protect some officials and not others. I know that I can say nothing about Grace Mah, but anything about Mary Callan.

That's bad moderation.

Posted by Tyler Hanley, online editor of Palo Alto Online
on Oct 4, 2007 at 8:36 am

Tyler Hanley is a registered user.

As you have noted, we intentionally give more latitude to critical comments of elected officials or the most senior management officers of the city and school district. Beyond that, anything personal will get zapped. All you need to do is focus on the issue not the person and it'll be fine. Your post attempted to single out one city staff person and accused that person of lying and malfeasance. That edit wasn't even a close call. Sorry.

Posted by David Taylor, a resident of Ventura
on Oct 5, 2007 at 3:18 am

OhlonePar -

Cheer up: at least you can post the name of Grace Mah. The editors are not only censoring the name of the subject of my post, but even censored a pointer to the Palo Alto Weekly's own story on the case! Pretty eery...

You've got it exactly right: my concern is that an editorial policy that prohibits ANY reference to a well-publicized case, claiming it as a personal attack, lowers the level of discourse to broad strokes and unsubstantiated allegations. Even in my most cynical times it's difficult for me to believe that is the editor's intent - to restrict the discussion to the insubstantial - but that certainly is the result.

I'm hoping the staff here is not closed to reason.

Posted by David Taylor, a resident of Ventura
on Oct 7, 2007 at 12:13 am

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by David Taylor, a resident of Ventura
on Oct 8, 2007 at 1:46 am

To Palo Alto Online staff:

Please explain why the most recent post was removed. It was not specific, used the same terms used by the online editor, so the "personal attack" rule does not apply. What rule was violated this time?

Posted by David Taylor, a resident of Ventura
on Oct 22, 2007 at 1:28 am

And if the parents can't/won't take care of the kids, guess what...the courts will.
End Quote

Right. Parents who *won't* take of their kids obviously also won't sign up for a 13-week course on parenting. Parents who *can't* take care of their kids are highly unlikely to overcome significant behavioral problems in a crash course led by police. Not impossible, but quite a far-fetched longshot. It's far more likely that the courts will take control.

So it seems Ed, likes the rest of us, finds it difficult to see how parents and teens can benefit from this.

If you were a member and logged in you could track comments from this story.

Post a comment

Posting an item on Town Square is simple and requires no registration. Just complete this form and hit "submit" and your topic will appear online. Please be respectful and truthful in your postings so Town Square will continue to be a thoughtful gathering place for sharing community information and opinion. All postings are subject to our TERMS OF USE, and may be deleted if deemed inappropriate by our staff.

We prefer that you use your real name, but you may use any "member" name you wish.

Name: *

Select your neighborhood or school community: * Not sure?

Comment: *

Verification code: *
Enter the verification code exactly as shown, using capital and lowercase letters, in the multi-colored box.

*Required Fields

The dress code
By Jessica T | 26 comments | 2,069 views

September food and drink goings on
By Elena Kadvany | 0 comments | 1,447 views

Two Days to Save This Dog?
By Cathy Kirkman | 15 comments | 1,276 views

It Depends... Disguising Real Characters in Fiction
By Nick Taylor | 0 comments | 420 views

Twenty-five years of wedded bliss
By Sally Torbey | 0 comments | 112 views