News

Palo Alto police chief announces plan to retire

Robert Jonsen is considering a run for sheriff

Palo Alto Police Chief Robert Jonsen addresses seniors at the Mitchell Park Community Center on July 12, 2018 during a "Meet the Chiefs" event. Embarcadero Media file photo by Veronica Weber.

Palo Alto Police Chief Robert Jonsen is planning to retire as he eyes a run to replace Laurie Smith as Santa Clara County sheriff.

While Jonsen has not set a date for stepping down, he has alerted City Manager Ed Shikada about his plan to retire. The city's Human Relations Commission alluded to Jonsen's pending departure at its Wednesday meeting, when the panel's members discussed their role in selecting a new leader for the Police Department.

The Rev. Kaloma Smith, who chairs the commission, called the city's search for a new chief a "big deal" and said he wants to make sure the commission is "there for this." The commission's task will be to come up with the ideal criteria for the new chief so that the city could have a "dream list" of qualities for possible candidates.

"We can't complain in 36 months about police policies and police chief (if), when we had the opportunity, we did not give clear, concise, policy-minded consideration to this process," Smith said. "This is not about personalities. I don't care what the one before did and this one did. I care about what are the characteristics that we need in the city from the next one."

Shikada confirmed that Jonsen has announced his intent to retire. The next step, Shikada said, will be gathering community input about what they want to see in a chief. The commission, which has played a central role in advancing the city's Race an Equity initiative, will be heavily involved in that effort.

Help sustain the local news you depend on.

Your contribution matters. Become a member today.

Join

The commission's discussion came a week after Jonsen formed a committee to explore a run for Santa Clara County sheriff. He is one of at least three current or former officers — along with Kevin Jensen, who retired as captain from the Santa Clara County Sheriff's Office; Christine Nagaye, who is currently a sergeant there; and Dave Knopf, a former assistant chief in the San Jose Police Department — who are preparing to vie for the position held by Smith, a six-term incumbent whose term has been rocked by scandals and investigations.

During its last few searches for a new police chief, Palo Alto had hired a recruiting firm to assist with the search. Shikada said the city hasn't gone that far yet in its effort to find Jonsen's successor. The main focus at the moment, he said, is community outreach.

"We're going to take it one step at a time," Shikada said.

Jonsen's pending retirement comes after more than three decades in law enforcement, most of them in the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Office. After 26 years in Los Angeles, where he rose to the captain's rank, Jonsen was hired as police chief in Menlo Park in 2013. He served in that position until 2017, when he left to take the top police job in Palo Alto.

Jonsen couldn't be immediately reached for comment.

Stay informed

Get daily headlines sent straight to your inbox in our Express newsletter.

Stay informed

Get daily headlines sent straight to your inbox in our Express newsletter.

Gennady Sheyner
 
Gennady Sheyner covers the City Hall beat in Palo Alto as well as regional politics, with a special focus on housing and transportation. Before joining the Palo Alto Weekly/PaloAltoOnline.com in 2008, he covered breaking news and local politics for the Waterbury Republican-American, a daily newspaper in Connecticut. Read more >>

Follow Palo Alto Online and the Palo Alto Weekly on Twitter @paloaltoweekly, Facebook and on Instagram @paloaltoonline for breaking news, local events, photos, videos and more.

Your support is vital to us continuing to bring you law enforcement news. Become a member today.

Palo Alto police chief announces plan to retire

Robert Jonsen is considering a run for sheriff

by / Palo Alto Weekly

Uploaded: Thu, Jan 20, 2022, 6:50 pm

Palo Alto Police Chief Robert Jonsen is planning to retire as he eyes a run to replace Laurie Smith as Santa Clara County sheriff.

While Jonsen has not set a date for stepping down, he has alerted City Manager Ed Shikada about his plan to retire. The city's Human Relations Commission alluded to Jonsen's pending departure at its Wednesday meeting, when the panel's members discussed their role in selecting a new leader for the Police Department.

The Rev. Kaloma Smith, who chairs the commission, called the city's search for a new chief a "big deal" and said he wants to make sure the commission is "there for this." The commission's task will be to come up with the ideal criteria for the new chief so that the city could have a "dream list" of qualities for possible candidates.

"We can't complain in 36 months about police policies and police chief (if), when we had the opportunity, we did not give clear, concise, policy-minded consideration to this process," Smith said. "This is not about personalities. I don't care what the one before did and this one did. I care about what are the characteristics that we need in the city from the next one."

Shikada confirmed that Jonsen has announced his intent to retire. The next step, Shikada said, will be gathering community input about what they want to see in a chief. The commission, which has played a central role in advancing the city's Race an Equity initiative, will be heavily involved in that effort.

The commission's discussion came a week after Jonsen formed a committee to explore a run for Santa Clara County sheriff. He is one of at least three current or former officers — along with Kevin Jensen, who retired as captain from the Santa Clara County Sheriff's Office; Christine Nagaye, who is currently a sergeant there; and Dave Knopf, a former assistant chief in the San Jose Police Department — who are preparing to vie for the position held by Smith, a six-term incumbent whose term has been rocked by scandals and investigations.

During its last few searches for a new police chief, Palo Alto had hired a recruiting firm to assist with the search. Shikada said the city hasn't gone that far yet in its effort to find Jonsen's successor. The main focus at the moment, he said, is community outreach.

"We're going to take it one step at a time," Shikada said.

Jonsen's pending retirement comes after more than three decades in law enforcement, most of them in the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Office. After 26 years in Los Angeles, where he rose to the captain's rank, Jonsen was hired as police chief in Menlo Park in 2013. He served in that position until 2017, when he left to take the top police job in Palo Alto.

Jonsen couldn't be immediately reached for comment.

Comments

felix
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 20, 2022 at 9:51 pm
felix, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on Jan 20, 2022 at 9:51 pm

Kaloma Smith says - “We can't complain in 36 months about police policies and police chief (if), when we had the opportunity, we did not give clear, concise, policy-minded consideration to this process,…”

Yes we can and should complain loudly and as many times as needed if there is backsliding on the police reforms we have enacted.

There are a raft of systemic issues in the PAPD - excessive use of force, non-transparency, racism, cover-up, unaccountability - for which even an excellent new Chief is no panacea, but fine leadership is critical for change. There must be vigilance on our part and City Councils.

There must be an experienced professional hired to search for a new Chief. Cast the net wide and don’t be in a hurry (appoint an interim Chief). Don’t just hire from the city next door or from within the PAPD - the Dept and culture needing reform.

Maybe we would get lucky and find an ethnic or gender diverse hire for top leadership.

This is a great opportunity. Let’s treat it as such.


birdie
Registered user
Professorville
on Jan 21, 2022 at 10:41 am
birdie, Professorville
Registered user
on Jan 21, 2022 at 10:41 am

The criminals that prey on us are not Palo Altans. They come from out-of-town to smash-and-grab in our parking garages, to rob us on our streets at night, and to burglarize our homes during the day. As a property owner and taxpayer, I’d prefer protection over fashionable coddling of people who disrespect our police. Resisting arrest escalates danger and should never be tolerated. I knew this when I was 6 years old. Why haven’t others figured this out?


jr1
Registered user
Greenmeadow
on Jan 21, 2022 at 1:50 pm
jr1, Greenmeadow
Registered user
on Jan 21, 2022 at 1:50 pm

All of the police departments in Santa Clara County should be consolidated into one county department. The consolidation would allow a better response rate and reduce the overall cost of city services. The County Sheriffs department is very good, they need a new chief. In San Mateo county, several cities eliminated their police departments and the service is better as a county police department.


Online Name
Registered user
Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jan 21, 2022 at 2:50 pm
Online Name, Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
Registered user
on Jan 21, 2022 at 2:50 pm

Why is this described as a "retirement" when in fact he resigned or quit to run for office where he'd continue working if elected?


White Senior fears Palo Alto Police
Registered user
Professorville
on Jan 21, 2022 at 4:19 pm
White Senior fears Palo Alto Police, Professorville
Registered user
on Jan 21, 2022 at 4:19 pm

Delighted that Jonson is "retiring". Good Riddance. I will not be voting for him as new County Sherriff. Would not be an improvement over Laurie Smith. I hope the other candidates have a better record than Smith or Jonson.

We need transparency, punishment and elimination of officers that have ever used excessive force.
Please, please vote carefully.


Serg
Registered user
Evergreen Park
on Jan 25, 2022 at 7:59 pm
Serg, Evergreen Park
Registered user
on Jan 25, 2022 at 7:59 pm

Another racist in power. I hope Santa Clara County supervisor or council members don't hire this man. He was a racist chief in Menlo Park, and in Palo Alto under his management he saw his officers abuse their power at Buena Vista Home Park and didn't do anything.


Don't miss out on the discussion!
Sign up to be notified of new comments on this topic.

Post a comment

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.