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Police chief's new advisory group targets neighborhood concerns

Traffic, parking and police use of video footage tops initial discussions

Barron Park resident Ann Pianetta, like many other Palo Altans, has issues in her neighborhood with parking. When she joined the new police Chief's Advisory Group, she found it gave her unprecedented access to get results she hadn't thought possible.

"I thought, 'How great to know the chief?' I liked the idea of people in the neighborhoods getting to connect with him directly if there's a problem," she said of Chief Robert Jonsen.

When parked cars near street intersections began blocking drivers' views, Pianetta wrote an email to Jonsen about the issue and they met. Within a week, she saw an officer looking over the situation.

"I feel much more connected to Palo Alto this way. Before, I never felt they ever cared before," said Pianetta, a retired medical hypnotherapist.

Jonsen, who took over as the city's top cop in 2018, convened the group to help build community participation and identify issues of importance on a granular level. The advisory group, which met for the first time in November, was supposed to be limited to 16 members. But residents' eagerness caused Jonsen to double the group' size to 32 — including all who applied, he said.

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Residents and business people are now alerting the department to unresolved problems and providing feedback on key issues that will affect the department's policy, from parking and traffic to the use of video cameras in patrol cars and on officers' uniforms.

The members range in age from 36 to 77 years old and include attorneys, health care professionals, small-business owners, scientists, technologists, a senior Olympian, a human resources manager, a former Palo Alto Council of PTAs president, a real estate agent, an artist and retirees.

The group meets every two months and has representatives covering most neighborhoods across Palo Alto.

With just three meetings under their belts, participants said they are impressed with the chief's responsiveness and each other's commitment. Each had a slightly different reason for joining, but there are many overlaps, the most common being familiarity with the department's Citizens Police Academy training.

Pianetta said she enrolled in the citizens academy to learn how Palo Alto police work to take care of the city. Joining the chief's group was a logical next step.

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Since officers can't be everywhere, the group helps the chief understand neighborhood needs, she said.

Alan Bennett, a retired physicist and research and development manager, is one of four advisers from the Old Palo Alto district and also an academy alum. During a meeting about traffic and parking, he suggested adding a stop sign at a dangerous location.

Last week, the group discussed policy on patrol-car and body-worn cameras. Some members went through the policy carefully, he said.

"On the whole, it is a well-thought-out policy," he added.

Adobe Meadow resident Al Dorsky, a retired chemist, said joining the group meant he could represent his neighborhood — and tie in his education and planning work with the city's Emergency Services Volunteer program.

"It's a good thing to be connected to the police department," he said. "We're getting inside information — that's the main thing."

John Guislin, a Crescent Park resident, has long advocated for a safer Middlefield Road, spearheading an ultimately successful campaign to get the city to take action. When the advisory group's first topic included looking at where the department needs more traffic enforcement, he was impressed. As traffic has increased, reckless driving has also increased, he said. The group plans to send the chief a list of troubled intersections for each neighborhood.

The department also presented a report to the group about the nationwide opioid crisis and what Palo Alto police are doing about the problem locally, he said.

During his encounters with Jonsen, the chief "came across as very clear. He's an excellent communicator," Guislin said, adding he was impressed with the chief's command and management of his department.

"To date this group has been a very positive example of how to harness citizen engagement for public benefit," he said.

The chief is equally satisfied with his group.

"I'm very impressed with the engagement level of the community members and their willingness to help us enhance the way we serve the public," he said in an email statement to the Weekly.

The department is reviewing the group's suggestions on traffic enforcement and the Field-Based Video Policy, which includes cameras on patrol cars and the body-worn cameras, to see if any changes should be incorporated, he said.

While advisory members have expressed satisfaction with their participation, the group has come under criticism on one front: The meetings are not open to the public.

According to Jonsen, the group is informal — not a political body like a committee or a board. In previous interviews, he said he wanted to keep the group focused.

But, he said, if anyone wants to give input or suggest a discussion item, they are welcome to send an email to [email protected] The department will ensure the message is shared with the whole group, including the chief.

As an informal group, the advisers so far have not been uniformly communicating the substance of their discussions to their fellow neighbors. Pianetta said her neighborhood has multiple representatives in the group, and though there's no formal communication strategy, neighbors know she is in the group and can reach out to her.

Bennett likewise said he knows the neighbors on his block and they him.

"People don't hesitate to speak up with problems," he said.

Dorsky, however, did formally reach out to his neighbors. So far, he hasn't heard anything back, but he is hoping they'll come to him with ideas or suggestions. As a longtime emergency-services volunteer, he knows the importance of neighbors reaching out to each other.

In an emergency, it's vital to understand a community's needs. That's especially true for the police department, and for residents to better understand how the department functions.

"It's the driving reason" he joined the advisory group, he said.

Who is part of the chief's group? Members of the advisory group and the areas they represent are:

Adobe Meadow: Paul Koo, Albert Dorsky

Barron Park: Laura Porter, Joe Landers, Ann Pianetta, Yvonne Boxerman

Charleston Meadow: Jennifer Zimmerman

College Terrace: Susanna Hursh

Community Center: Cathie Foster

Crescent Park: Hamilton Hitchings Jr., Evan G. Reade, John Guislin

Downtown North: Pat Markevitch

Duveneck/St. Francis: Andrew D. MacKenzie, Vycelka Gatto, Hamilton Hitchings Jr.

Evergreen Park: Sophie Tsang

Greenmeadow: Carol Turner

Midtown: Eric Newman, Jake L. Olsen, Jonathan Keeling, David Wills, David E. Gobuty

Old Palo Alto: George Richard, Kathleen Jason-Moreau, Alan Bennett, Michelle Robell

St. Claire Gardens: Carl Darling

Southgate: Peter Shambora

Triple El: Dana Wong

University South: Ardan Blum

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Police chief's new advisory group targets neighborhood concerns

Traffic, parking and police use of video footage tops initial discussions

by / Palo Alto Weekly

Uploaded: Fri, Mar 29, 2019, 6:55 am

Barron Park resident Ann Pianetta, like many other Palo Altans, has issues in her neighborhood with parking. When she joined the new police Chief's Advisory Group, she found it gave her unprecedented access to get results she hadn't thought possible.

"I thought, 'How great to know the chief?' I liked the idea of people in the neighborhoods getting to connect with him directly if there's a problem," she said of Chief Robert Jonsen.

When parked cars near street intersections began blocking drivers' views, Pianetta wrote an email to Jonsen about the issue and they met. Within a week, she saw an officer looking over the situation.

"I feel much more connected to Palo Alto this way. Before, I never felt they ever cared before," said Pianetta, a retired medical hypnotherapist.

Jonsen, who took over as the city's top cop in 2018, convened the group to help build community participation and identify issues of importance on a granular level. The advisory group, which met for the first time in November, was supposed to be limited to 16 members. But residents' eagerness caused Jonsen to double the group' size to 32 — including all who applied, he said.

Residents and business people are now alerting the department to unresolved problems and providing feedback on key issues that will affect the department's policy, from parking and traffic to the use of video cameras in patrol cars and on officers' uniforms.

The members range in age from 36 to 77 years old and include attorneys, health care professionals, small-business owners, scientists, technologists, a senior Olympian, a human resources manager, a former Palo Alto Council of PTAs president, a real estate agent, an artist and retirees.

The group meets every two months and has representatives covering most neighborhoods across Palo Alto.

With just three meetings under their belts, participants said they are impressed with the chief's responsiveness and each other's commitment. Each had a slightly different reason for joining, but there are many overlaps, the most common being familiarity with the department's Citizens Police Academy training.

Pianetta said she enrolled in the citizens academy to learn how Palo Alto police work to take care of the city. Joining the chief's group was a logical next step.

Since officers can't be everywhere, the group helps the chief understand neighborhood needs, she said.

Alan Bennett, a retired physicist and research and development manager, is one of four advisers from the Old Palo Alto district and also an academy alum. During a meeting about traffic and parking, he suggested adding a stop sign at a dangerous location.

Last week, the group discussed policy on patrol-car and body-worn cameras. Some members went through the policy carefully, he said.

"On the whole, it is a well-thought-out policy," he added.

Adobe Meadow resident Al Dorsky, a retired chemist, said joining the group meant he could represent his neighborhood — and tie in his education and planning work with the city's Emergency Services Volunteer program.

"It's a good thing to be connected to the police department," he said. "We're getting inside information — that's the main thing."

John Guislin, a Crescent Park resident, has long advocated for a safer Middlefield Road, spearheading an ultimately successful campaign to get the city to take action. When the advisory group's first topic included looking at where the department needs more traffic enforcement, he was impressed. As traffic has increased, reckless driving has also increased, he said. The group plans to send the chief a list of troubled intersections for each neighborhood.

The department also presented a report to the group about the nationwide opioid crisis and what Palo Alto police are doing about the problem locally, he said.

During his encounters with Jonsen, the chief "came across as very clear. He's an excellent communicator," Guislin said, adding he was impressed with the chief's command and management of his department.

"To date this group has been a very positive example of how to harness citizen engagement for public benefit," he said.

The chief is equally satisfied with his group.

"I'm very impressed with the engagement level of the community members and their willingness to help us enhance the way we serve the public," he said in an email statement to the Weekly.

The department is reviewing the group's suggestions on traffic enforcement and the Field-Based Video Policy, which includes cameras on patrol cars and the body-worn cameras, to see if any changes should be incorporated, he said.

While advisory members have expressed satisfaction with their participation, the group has come under criticism on one front: The meetings are not open to the public.

According to Jonsen, the group is informal — not a political body like a committee or a board. In previous interviews, he said he wanted to keep the group focused.

But, he said, if anyone wants to give input or suggest a discussion item, they are welcome to send an email to [email protected] The department will ensure the message is shared with the whole group, including the chief.

As an informal group, the advisers so far have not been uniformly communicating the substance of their discussions to their fellow neighbors. Pianetta said her neighborhood has multiple representatives in the group, and though there's no formal communication strategy, neighbors know she is in the group and can reach out to her.

Bennett likewise said he knows the neighbors on his block and they him.

"People don't hesitate to speak up with problems," he said.

Dorsky, however, did formally reach out to his neighbors. So far, he hasn't heard anything back, but he is hoping they'll come to him with ideas or suggestions. As a longtime emergency-services volunteer, he knows the importance of neighbors reaching out to each other.

In an emergency, it's vital to understand a community's needs. That's especially true for the police department, and for residents to better understand how the department functions.

"It's the driving reason" he joined the advisory group, he said.

Who is part of the chief's group? Members of the advisory group and the areas they represent are:

Adobe Meadow: Paul Koo, Albert Dorsky

Barron Park: Laura Porter, Joe Landers, Ann Pianetta, Yvonne Boxerman

Charleston Meadow: Jennifer Zimmerman

College Terrace: Susanna Hursh

Community Center: Cathie Foster

Crescent Park: Hamilton Hitchings Jr., Evan G. Reade, John Guislin

Downtown North: Pat Markevitch

Duveneck/St. Francis: Andrew D. MacKenzie, Vycelka Gatto, Hamilton Hitchings Jr.

Evergreen Park: Sophie Tsang

Greenmeadow: Carol Turner

Midtown: Eric Newman, Jake L. Olsen, Jonathan Keeling, David Wills, David E. Gobuty

Old Palo Alto: George Richard, Kathleen Jason-Moreau, Alan Bennett, Michelle Robell

St. Claire Gardens: Carl Darling

Southgate: Peter Shambora

Triple El: Dana Wong

University South: Ardan Blum

Comments

So Much More Can Be Done To Prevent PA Crime
Crescent Park
on Mar 29, 2019 at 10:09 am
So Much More Can Be Done To Prevent PA Crime, Crescent Park
on Mar 29, 2019 at 10:09 am
10 people like this

The various neighborhoods should also be organizing crime prevention watch patrols. Have a residential volunteer program...give then T-shirts specifying as such & armed with their smartphone, they can report crimes & suspicious-looking individuals in their respective neighborhoods.

The PAPD is restricted by profiling but residents are free to do so. If someone does not appear to belong in one's neck of the woods, a simple call to the PAPD can warrant a 'stop & check' procedure & if a warrant happens to be outstanding, the suspicious person can be arrested.

The same goes for having a direct access-line to ICE as law enforcement agencies can then detain any illegal alien with a past criminal record.

In other areas (i.e. downtown PA, parks etc.), this program could also reduce sexual assaults & robberies as visual recognition of anyone wearing a neighborhood watch T-shirt would be cause for seconds thoughts of possibly being arrested via reportage. An ounce of prevention is always worth a pound of cure so they say.

Either that or start utilizing the PAPD reserve officers units as all they seem to do is direct traffic at Stanford football games. This might prove to be an even better deterent as PA reserve officers have badges & carry real guns.


Michael H
Registered user
Professorville
on Mar 29, 2019 at 11:33 am
Michael H, Professorville
Registered user
on Mar 29, 2019 at 11:33 am
Like this comment

Why isn't the Professorvillle neighborhood represented on the advisory group?


He must go
Old Palo Alto
on Mar 29, 2019 at 12:42 pm
He must go , Old Palo Alto
on Mar 29, 2019 at 12:42 pm
3 people like this

Michael, they must of forgotten to ask you.


Walking The Mean Streets Of Professorville
University South
on Mar 29, 2019 at 12:53 pm
Walking The Mean Streets Of Professorville, University South
on Mar 29, 2019 at 12:53 pm
3 people like this

> Why isn't the Professorvillle neighborhood represented on the advisory group?

Because it is a crime-free neighborhood?


Wayne Martin
Professorville
on Mar 30, 2019 at 9:52 am
Wayne Martin, Professorville
on Mar 30, 2019 at 9:52 am
1 person likes this

This article about the Police Chief’s advisory group seems to highlight problems with the Police Department that need systemic/organizational correction, not “back doors” like we see here—

“When parked cars near street intersections began blocking drivers' views, Pianetta wrote an email to Jonsen about the issue and they met. Within a week, she saw an officer looking over the situation.”

Why is it that when people see problems that there is not a defined communication channel to the police which results in action, without having to involve the Chief of Police? There is now an on-line reporting form for reporting situations of a non-emergency nature that people can use to report problems for which police attention is appropriate. Why wouldn’t the person emailing the Chief not take the time to submit a more formal report which can be logged, and acted upon by the department? If the Chief has to be involved in small problems like this, there is a clear management problem in the department.

Whether this Chief recognizes this situation as a possible failure in the department dealing with the public or sees this as an opportunity to “smooze” with the public is an open question.

This problem about blocked views at corners happens all over the city. Unless the parking ordinances are changed so that vehicles can not legally park so close to a corner than on-coming traffic is obscured, what can the police do? Should it turn out that some sort of report were to be generated by the police pointing out that not allowing parking close to corners would increase safe driving conditions--which resulted in Transportation Department action--then maybe this would be a good thing. Not clear that that sort of change is envisioned by the Police Chief or this committee.


Wayne Martin
Professorville
on Mar 30, 2019 at 11:08 am
Wayne Martin, Professorville
on Mar 30, 2019 at 11:08 am
4 people like this

This topic of crime in Palo Alto undoubtedly would come up in any discussion of problems here in Palo Alto. But just how big a problem is it? The Police offer some insight via publishing data known as Uniform Crime Reporting data, which can be found at the link below:

Web Link

Crimes tend to be violent, or non-violent/property-based, so to make sense of this data one needs to focus on the two groups separately. Most agencies add all of the crime numbers together, which provides an index to the level of crime in a town, or jurisdiction. The data for Palo Alto clearly shows that there are very few violent crimes in this town, but a moderate number of property-based crimes.

There are other crime statistics, some of which are provided by the Police to the State and some to the FBI. Unfortunately, the PAPD has never been very transparent with some of these details, like the clearance rates for each category of crime, and other data, like the cities where criminals call home. Some of these details can be found on the Police log, but not in a convenient format for downloading and subsequent processing.

Given how open Palo Alto is, solving property crimes may be close to impossible .. particularly if the cost of the stolen items is not high.

The following is data about thefts in Palo Alto for 2017:

Over $400:..893
$200-$400:.175
$50-$199:…188
Under $50:.222
--------------
Total……….1478

Anyone reading the local papers would be aware that there are a goodly number of property-based crimes involving motor vehicles. Additionally, about 250 bicycles a year are reported stolen.

The crime numbers seem to bounce around in a tight range, which opens the question—how does the current Police organization and activity relate to crime in town? And just what can be down to lower these numbers.

If people are not willing to lock their cars and not leave valuables in their cars in plain sight, there isn’t much the Police can do. On the other hand, increasing the use of surveillance technology might provide clues to vehicles entering and leaving the city about the times that crimes occur.

So, one of the things the Police can do is become more transparent where crime data is concerned—particularly clearance numbers.


Protect The PA Community
Barron Park
on Mar 30, 2019 at 3:09 pm
Protect The PA Community, Barron Park
on Mar 30, 2019 at 3:09 pm
8 people like this

An armed Civil Patrol consisting of Palo Alto residents & trained by the PAPD would serve as a major crime deterrent.

Since the PAPD reserve officers are volunteer & primarily utilized for traffic control and/or emergencies only, a residential civil patrol could fill the manpower gap.

And when I say 'armed' it doesn't necessarily have to involve live ammo...maybe high-velocity rubber bullets used for riot control or tranquilizer darts that Animal Control uses to sedate wild beasts.

A uniform or photo ID laminate would identify members of this protective community service and the by-words should always be...call first (as in 911 on their cell phones) & only shoot projectiles as a last resort (i.e. if/when in personal danger).

Not recommending a vigilante committee but rather a vigilance group of concerned PA citizens.




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