Opinion: Saving lives by sending the right people to crises | January 14, 2022 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

Spectrum - January 14, 2022

Opinion: Saving lives by sending the right people to crises

by Joe Simitian and Tom DuBois

Six years ago, William Raff died after a tragic encounter with police on Christmas night. When Palo Alto police officers responding to a 911 call from the 31-year-old mentally ill man arrived, they were immediately attacked with what was later discovered to be a butter knife.

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Santa Clara County Supervisor Joe Simitian serves as chair of the county's Health and Hospital Committee. Palo Alto City Council member Tom DuBois served as mayor in 2021. Email them at [email protected] and [email protected]


Posted by I can't breathe pollution
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 14, 2022 at 7:37 am

I can't breathe pollution is a registered user.

This seems like window dressing. The problem with the police department in Palo Alto is there's no oversight. When there's a complaint, its handled by....the Palo Alto police department! When an officer does something obviously bad, he's reviewed by...other Palo Alto police!

We need to quit vilifying failed police and just fire them. It's hard to control people I can tell you. Give them a break and just fire them.

Posted by Citizen
a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 14, 2022 at 10:45 am

Citizen is a registered user.

Public safety for the public is paramount, rather than the safety of those causing disturbances.

Posted by Barron Park Denizen
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 14, 2022 at 12:13 pm

Barron Park Denizen is a registered user.

The new PERT team will likely do some good, and will look forward to a report on their performance and effectiveness. But this article has issues:

1. Many of the PAPD have built relationships with the homeless and know them by name. The former Police Department SAT team, which unfortunately could no longer be funded, in particular had the assignment of helping the homeless find assistance and resources, with some success.
2. In regard to the tragic William Raff case on Christmas 2015, after lengthy investigation the County District Attorney's found that the deceased sought his own demise via attacking the officers. Could a mental health professional have cooled off such a troubled person running at them with a knife in the dark?
3. And please, do not keep repeating that the weapon was "later discovered to be a butter knife." That was a statement made in the initial heat of the tragedy, and found not to be true. Please refer to the online Police Auditor's report covering 2015.

It appears that the two authors were not well served by their staff drafting this article.

Posted by NeilsonBuchanan
a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 14, 2022 at 3:28 pm

NeilsonBuchanan is a registered user.

Thanks, Tom and Joe,

I understand the potential of this program and it can work well here. Thanks for launching it.

Posted by Paly02
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 14, 2022 at 4:57 pm

Paly02 is a registered user.

This program is an important first step in diverting mental health crises from the police and to qualified mental health workers. I look forward to hearing how it goes

Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 14, 2022 at 5:24 pm

Anonymous is a registered user.

Public Safety must take priority.
One may be sad for troubled persons, single mothers, unemployed, ex-felons, drug addicted, mentally challenged.
But there is a LOT of crime; read area police blotter columns in our newspapers! Transients, camps ARE a threat to the general public.
We are edging ever more towards San Francisco, wherein filthy and dangerous public streets, tent-blocked sidewalks, needles at transit stations threaten the public trying to go about their business, whether for work, school, leisure, tourism as emboldened criminal drug-addicted homeless attack the public without much worry of recourse. District Attorney Chesa Boudin charges the absolute minimum of cases; outrageous and recall effort underway.
For the sake of San Francisco, I hope the recall succeeds.
Ramshacke oversized vehicles parked endlessly on public streets or at edge of public parks such as Rengstorff Park in Mountain View are: unsanitary, illegal, dumping flows to SF Bay, untenable. Schoolchildren were threatened when Palo Alto helplessly permitted transients to inhabit the Cubberley Community Center parking lot for awhile.
Prove to us these individuals are not transients attracted here by your often misguided handouts and lax atmosphere.
Prove why we should cater tomthose who refuse to use services and abide by basic reasonable rules at the PA Opportunity Center and other suchngenerous taxpayer-paid efforts to assist those in crisis AND transients.
Prove to us where there have been mass layoffs nearby here, throwing people out of work.
Millions spent with little documentation; an ever-increase of the homeless industrial complex.
Individuals CAN increase their skills, literacy, avoid criminal acts, avoid illegal drugs. Hanging out in public is not acceptable.

Posted by nanhis
a resident of Menlo Park
on Jan 15, 2022 at 7:41 am

nanhis is a registered user.

This is a compassionate and sensible approach. It doesn’t solve all problems but it definitely is a huge step forward in the right direction. Thank you, Tom and Joe.

Posted by Kirsten Lakin
a resident of another community
on Jan 16, 2022 at 2:11 pm

Kirsten Lakin is a registered user.

Palo Alto could consider establishing a city-monitored homeless campground in one of its parks with outreach from PERT and various social services agencies including a food bank.

This is the civilized approach to addressing homelessness.

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