Almanac

News - August 7, 2013

Menlo police form citizens advisory group

by Sandy Brundage

Menlo Park's new police advisory group may be the only assembly of civic volunteers under the city's auspices with representatives from every Menlo Park neighborhood, from Sharon Heights to Belle Haven to Linfield Oaks, sitting down together on a monthly basis.

The group includes attorneys, a real estate agent, a Facebook information security specialist, with some names more familiar than others: Planning Commissioner Vince Bressler, Chamber of Commerce CEO Fran Dehn, community leaders Rose Bickerstaff and Elizabeth Houck, and fire district director Jack Nelson.

Joining them are Betsy Barth, Ray Basso, Peter Brown, Dan Burke, Katherine Glass, Mary Kenney, John Lindgren, Hamilton Mixon, Margaret Munzig, Jason Pfannenstiel, John Preyer, Steve Taffee, Brigid Van Randall, Keeley Vega and Ryan Williams.

The group held its first meeting on July 30.

"I am excited to work with Chief Jonsen, whom I give much respect," Ms. Bickerstaff said. "Working with him and his leadership, we can continue to make improvements in the way we view this city as a whole. My goal with this group is to help make this town all it can be. To 'bridge' a few more gaps, and have a more unified city."

Mr. Taffee, a Menlo Park resident for 16 years and the community emergency response team (CERT) coordinator for the Willows neighborhood, said he wants to make sure that the team is well-connected with the police department, the same way it is with the fire district. As a member of the ACLU and the Electronic Frontier Foundation, he's also interested in the intersection between privacy and government surveillance.

"As the city looks into technologies such as license plate readers and video surveillance systems, I want to make sure that our right to a safe, secure community is balanced with our right to privacy," Mr. Taffee said. "The two are in tension with one another, but are not mutually exclusive."

Ms. Van Randall volunteered in part to stay involved, having just resigned from the housing commission. "I have a strong belief that the police department is part of the central nervous system of the city, along with fire and education services," she said. "They know the personality of the city very well and (are) in a unique position to interact and integrate the community in a positive fashion. I also have family members in various roles of law enforcement and personally (am) very interested in law and order."

It's a large group — some might say unwieldy —, but Chief Jonsen said he wanted to include everyone who wanted to participate.

The long list of members goes along with a long list of goals, which in essence focus on serving as liaisons between their communities and the police department, helping to identify problems and issues, engaging others to continue improving community policing, and participating in consensus decision-making, such as figuring out how to evaluate the group's effectiveness.

The next meeting will be held Aug. 27.

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