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Happenings in Pardee Park

Original post made by bob@wenzlau.net, Crescent Park, on Mar 11, 2014

On a day-to-day basis when one walks by our parks, and sees young hispanics congregating, you can feel the distance between their culture and ours. The differences include language, means, and knowing that their food tastes better. This divide or fear can be strongest in the evening, when young men might gather in the dark. I know the fear is not without warrant.

Many of us are dads who grew young boys through high school through college to productive lives. Boys will be boys. We have dealt with drinking, pot and other craziness. The dreaded senior year is challenging as they hear that they made it to college, and can relax a bit. Their lies the danger we worked on, and this can be tougher for others.

So I have become fast friends with a hispanic maintenance worker at Town & Country. I have been proud that he steered his son through the traps and temptations that exist can exist in East Palo Alto, got his into a great prep school, and he earned several college admissions. Not easy stuff when the norm is so different, but boys will be boys.

Now the story. When mom, dad and daughter left town last Saturday, the son got in an unfortunate circumstance that we all know the better. He was hanging out Saturday evening in Pardee Park with other teens, there was drinking and their was some pot. He did not partake, but he was there. The police arrived, and ticketed the kids.

The damage has been done now, but I was troubled hearing about the lack of engagement from our police department. The young man attempted to represent to the officers that he was merely hanging with his peers - he does not drink or smoke - but he did hang out. They had no interest in hearing from him.

Now the hard work of the parent and the boy is jeopardized. Will the college admit him with an arrest record? Even is this area, we know that a college can work through this.

However, I was left with a sense that if these were our own kids, the officer might have said - "get home", or "get out of here". He might have talked a bit to the kids ask what was going on. I know the "warning" from an officer carries significant force on all of us, and that might have been used, give he never met the kids. However, when the kids are hispanic, does the same approach exist.

So the damage has been done, and regardless of guilt or innocence, a remarkable journey of this young man at risk. In my perfect world, the officer would have taken a bit more time, rather than causing the damage that we know these arrests cause. I know there are other sides, but again, as we look at these kids that might be from other towns, there are some high school seniors in there with college admits that have accomplished amazing things, and this can be damaged perhaps without reversal.

Equally, there is an admonishment to those seniors this year, that it all can be jeopardized if you play outside the rules.

Comments (10)

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Posted by profiling
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 11, 2014 at 9:52 am

Are you implying that white kids don't smoke pot? Or that a white kid wouldn't have been cited if he was caught by police in a similar situation? I don't know what the first part of your story about non-white kids being different from "us" has to do with the second part of your story about kids getting in trouble.


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Posted by bob@wenzlau.net
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 11, 2014 at 10:08 am

I am clear that many kids smoke pot - its color blind. My discourse is at two levels: 1) for all kids a citation is too strong given the damage a citation does for their college paths, and 2) that if they were Duveneck kids they might not of been cited and more properly told to get home. Thanks for inviting the clarity that my writing (and grammar) might have left unclear.


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Posted by Life Isn't Fair
a resident of Duveneck School
on Mar 11, 2014 at 10:14 am

More likely, if they were white kids, their parents would intervene with a lawyer and the whole thing would be "forgotten." Perhaps you can help the parents obtain a pro-bono lawyer.


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Posted by Mr.Recycle
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 11, 2014 at 12:06 pm

What are the odds someone hanging out in the park with their friends who were smoking pot and drinking wasn't also drinking or smoking pot? "I was holding it for my friend," is one of the oldest lies in the book. But more importantly, don't hang out with your friends who are smoking pot and drinking in the park at night.


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Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 11, 2014 at 2:31 pm

As a former white kid, my only experience along these lines was that pot was found by a police officer in a car I was in and it was dumped by the side of the road - case closed. Same with the occasional beer drinking in Eleanor or Rinconada ... until there was constant vandalism going on at which point most of the sensible kids stopped going there at night.

That was back in the 70's.

Not sure what lesson to draw from that. Is it racism. Were the kids in the park more of a problem that we in our car were. Was it just pot, was it beer, were they caught in the act, how did they act, what did they say? There's a lot of variables here. What's really going on?

Also, when you know a kid it is hard to believe anything bad about them - it's always some other kids that are the bad ones. That seems to always be the story.

Also ... I would take it more seriously when kids from another community come here and decide to smoke pot as a group in our newly renovated Eleanor Pardee Park. Hope that doesn't make me a racist, since I am not. I'd feel the same whatever the race of the outsiders ... let them smoke pot in their own parks. ;-)

Meanwhile, almost every weekend there are people from other neighborhoods that go to Rinconada park and even drive their cars into the park onto the grass??? I never understand that one - why don't they ever get caught and ticketed? How hard is to to lug your stuff into the park and lug it out when you clean up after yourself when you leave like most everyone else?


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Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Mar 11, 2014 at 3:18 pm

Hmmm is a registered user.

Bob- I am really sorry to hear this! Are you aware of the history - as far as the cops are concerned - of Eleanor Park? It's been known as a gang hang out, in the back area of the park. EPA and PA cops have been well aware of that. Perhaps that is one reason that they didn't care that this young man wasn't partaking.

Are you planning to help him, via legal resources or anything else? I hope that is something that you, or a good legal advocate can do. If he has other adults in his life who know how to effectively deal with the authorities, perhaps they can advocate for him (a minister, youth leader, tutor, teacher, etc). Obviously, that's a job for an attorney, but not all attorneys have time. If this youth has good grades and a decent future before him due to being on the college track, that needs to be made evident.

And, finally, in recent years, your PD hasn't been exactly making inroads with any local minority communities, and I doubt they'll start any time soon. Maybe some communication with Chief Burns is a way to assist this young man?


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Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Mar 11, 2014 at 3:21 pm

Hmmm is a registered user.

Bob - btw - I recall when my friend's son was busted in a park for smoking dope. He's white and he did get into trouble. This is some time ago, but it was his first offense, and he was guilty.

In my teens, I was often the one not smoking pot or drinking, and while I didn't look to spend time with those under the influence, it did happen. Luckily, I never got busted for my association!


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Posted by bob@wenzlau.net
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 12, 2014 at 11:20 am

Thanks for the feedback here.

I met with the young man who impressed his college aspirations, and the dilemma he now must resolve.

While he made a poor choice to hangout with the kids, the repercussion of this is disproportionate to his activity. The unfairness is one of means - the Palo Alto kids that get in this situation pay for the layer, and it is expunged through the craft of counsel. The kids we hope to lift up, make the same mistakes, but get held back because they do not enjoy the same counsel. I am ultimately annoyed, given my unplanned interest in this situation, that I must undo what PAPD did. The situation could have been handled differently, and now it is just pain to sort it out. I just wish there was some finesse in a community that seeks to raise all its kids.

(I must make a note, as he lives in Palo Alto, and I get a clue that there is "the Palo Alto" we see and the hidden Palo Alto when folks are in a lower economic demographic. This is a burden to a kid growing up in the hidden Palo Alto.)

So at this moment I am not finding a rush of pro bono efforts to help the young man. I expect I will find one, but with all the lawyers in this town, one would think we could help the young man continue his college journey, and resolve this bump. Leads are welcome, but we don't think this is a "clinic" issue. May if it were a Kickstart campaign, we could lay out the up side to the investment helping the fellow get back on course.


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Posted by another data point
a resident of South of Midtown
on Mar 12, 2014 at 11:31 am

In the 1980s in another state, my 17 year old brother was caught buying beer w/fake ID. A straight A student (and Caucasian in a mostly Caucasian area), he and my mom submitted an apology letter by him and also a letter by another adult (possibly an attorney. I don't recall) attesting to his character.

Result: Off scott-free. Maybe probation, but nothing on his record. In other words, it did no damage to his career or life. Worth a try.


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Posted by silly
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 14, 2014 at 12:04 am

Perhaps this person is not telling the truth. Perhaps the police had additional information you are not being told. Perhaps you are being lied to. To make assumptions, that racism is the underlying factor, seems pure speculation, especially since your "supporters cite stories form many years past, a different time and place in the world. maybe we should teach the younger generation some sense of responsibility, not to drum up reasons to convince the world their actions and behaviors were just, and due to the lack of "finess" of the police. Give me a break.


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