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Original post made
on Apr 26, 2011
I hope Ms. Smothers does NOT let this matter drop. Wasn't Bob Simpson a cop in EPA before? If so, he may know Ms. Smothers and have issues that aren't pertinent to responding to an emergency call.
It makes sense to me that she reported the incident at Su Hong, once her phone had juice - it's safer to do so in a public area. What was she supposed to do - go instead to McDonald's or Cold Stone Creamery?
Stay on this Ms. Smothers,
Didn't the Atherton Police Department just release a 911 call from a student who was scared.
This is so bizarre!
Since the woman couldn't call 911 during the incident, it's logical to go a few blocks to a better lighted & busier location to place the call. Are there any witnesses to the road event or the meeting with the cop? His remarks as quoted here are so far out of line that MPPD should send him back to training school on how to treat people. Or suspend hime without pay for a few days.
I don't understand why the 911 recording issue is significant - don't dispatchers take the call & relay info to patrol officer? Possibly cop didn't hear the details if dispatcher just said "Go to SHTO & take report. Incident is over. No immediate danger" or something similar. Or is 911 call tape played for officer while he's on route to respond?
Something does not add up here. Though the description of events above is muddled, the altercation appears to have taken place very near the intersection of Laurel and Ravenswood, literally a stones throw from the Menlo Park police station, and yet Ms. Smothers felt it safer, with someone threatening her life, to drive to Su Hong?! Perhaps in the heat of the moment that decision was plausible. But these run-ins, in my admittedly limited experience, don't tend to spring from nothing -- one gets the feeling there must have been some traffic incident, some perceived slight or offense (wittingly or unwittingly) on Ms. Smother's part which led to the other driver's irrational and illegal behavior. And telling someone in a lynching frame of mind to "shut up" is not the recommended mediation, of course, no matter how much the offender deserves to be shut up. This is very sad if things happened the way Ms. Smothers claims they did, but I tend to understand Sgt. Simpson's skepticism when he responded to her call from the Su Hong takeout line.
"a stones throw from the Menlo Park police station, and yet Ms. Smothers felt it safer, with someone threatening her life, to drive to Su Hong?!"
The Menlo Park Police station and its adjacent parking lot are neither well marked or well lighted at night. It could certainly feel safer to drive to and park at Su Hong's which is located directly on the street and which is well lighted.
Way to go, Gern!!
Only 4 posts in before someone plays the (albeit subtle) "blame the victim" card. Well done.
We should all be thinking as clearly when threatened, as you do afterwards in a nice safe blog.
Gern, The way I read it, the attacker turned right on Laurel after a u-turn and headed toward the MPPD. Does it make sense that the victim would follow her attacker or drive toward a more well-lighted place - especially if she suspected that the attacker might be a cop?
It is obvious that Vicki Smothers was rattled and drove to a place where she would feel safe. Su Hong is well lit with lots of pedestrian traffic. In other words a safe location with plenty of potential witnesses. Suppose she drove immediately to the police station which is not well lit. The perpetrator could have easily turned around and overtaken her vehicle before she could reach the police station. Then we could have very well been reading about a brutal assault and quite possibly a slaying.
Ms. Smothers did the right thing. Sgt. Simpson, on the other hand, at the very least owes Ms. Smothers a public apology. His behavior was unprofessional and Mr. McClure owes the city an explanation.
I have lived in Menlo Park 40+ years. I know exactly the location described and I know exactly the location of the police station, but the first thought through my mind was not "the police station is just a few blocks away, I'll go there". I definitely would have had to think hard about where the police station was and where the door to it was located in relation to the parking. I know exactly where Su Hongs, Cold Stone, Kepler's etc are. Our police can meet offsite without making judgment (judgment isn't his job, by the way).
I am no apologist for the cops (don't trust them at all myself) but if I were in the situation described, I would have gone straight to the police station, only a few yards from Ravenswood@Laurel. Not to a restaurant. Smothers' statement that her attacker was a cop makes me question if she has a history with someone on the police force.
I don't care much for McClure either, but I don't find his actions particularly suspicious. That's how he rolls, and we pay him well for it.
There is more to this story than we're reading in the article. Just my gut.
Peter, BtV, Ashamed, & Hank are correct. Last place I'd try to get help after dark with a bat(?)wielding nut after me is MPPD. It's not as if they have a drive-up window or an unlocked reception area, after one has walked to the bldg from the parking area.
Gern, have you been to MPPD? Do you know where to park & which door to enter? How to get the attn of someone inside to buzz you in? Maybe while you could be chased after being threatened? SuHong is definitely a safer choice.
Gern, I do think you may be right about some unwitting trigger to the behavior though. Even something as innocuous as an unsignalled lane change might have set the guy's rage in motion. Maybe he was arguing heatedly with his female passenger & he flew over the edge 7 transferred his hostility to the victim.
I have lived in this area for 20+ years and have never had the need to find out where the MP police headquarters are, so as a female it totally makes sense to me why Ms. Smothers would go to a safe public parking lot with lots of people around. Ms. Smothers has been honored by our community as a leader and has earned the right to be credible. Her story is believable. She deserves an apology at the very least.
With no witness this seems like a dead story... Is protection on Su Hong's menu?
I don't think Ms. Smothers needs a witness.
"Ms. Smothers, who co-founded a treatment program for addicts and was inducted into the San Mateo County Women's Hall of Fame in 2003 for community service,"
I think her statement all by itself stands alone.
Looks like somebody went crazy on the wrong citizen.
I have several issues with this story, none of which relate to whether the victim should have known where the PD is and gone there, or whether 911 calls should be released. My problem is with the story itself. The victim is alert enough to notice that the woman in the SUV stared forward the whole time while some raving nut came at her car with a club, but she wasn't alert enough to get the license plate # when the car made the uturn and took a right on Laurel even though she was backing up and looking right at the car at the time. The victim was alert enough to get a good description of the perp, including the color of his clothing (in the dark) down to seeing a yellow emblem. But, again, couldn't get that license #. The victim seems very familiar with how police officers handle emergency stops in the middle of a street (don't know if she is right as its never happened to me, but does cause me to wonder). Lastly, she doesn't say, but I would ask, did the police escort her home to make sure she got there safely? As reported, this just doesn't pass my sniff test.
A little compassion and empathy would go a long way for you. Ms Smothers has been an assiduous servant of the community doing her best to help those in need. Her recount of events is completely credible. Why would she make something like that up? You imply that if there were no witnesses then it lacks credibility.
Please reconsider what you said. Protection is on everyone's menu. When we see someone in distress we should try to help that person if we can. That is what makes a society civilized.
I echo WhoRU's comment about the license plate, though I'm not skeptical about the story as reported.
I was waiting to learn that she had gotten the plate and felt a kind of unsatisfied that she apparently did not get it.
On the other hand, if you're not used to dealing with threatening situations, who knows what you're going to be thinking and feeling? Su Hong must have been a beacon in the darkness, visible from El Camino and a refuge of civilization if nothing else.
The Menlo Park police station is no refuge. I've never seen a public building so unwelcoming.
If I'm reading the article correctly, if the story is true, then there were witnesses. She said that the woman in the SUV gazed straight ahead as cars swerved around the shouting man. Any of those people come forward to sustantiate the story?
Why would anyone in their right mind drive to the MP police station at night. The gates to the police parking lot are closed (for security) and one would have to leave the limited safety of their vehicle for a 100+ foot walk to a locked door to the isolated waiting lobby. The victim did the right thing going to a public place.
There are more fire stations than police stations, which came in handy for me and my kids one day when we were harassed by a crazed driver - I drove into the High/Alma fire station lot in PA with my horn blaring and the guy chasing us took off immediately when he saw where I had led him. Problem is it's not always possible to remember what to do when a crazed individual is threatening you.
It is interesting to see how many people have already judged Sgt. Simpson guilty of some impropriety, based solely on scant reporting of one person's notion of events, and that of a person who was understandably agitated, to boot. The knee-jerk reaction that I was "blaming the victim" is unwarranted given I'm asking perfectly reasonable questions round an incident about which no one in this forum has but the barest of details.
After rereading the article I do agree with another poster that the perpetrator likely turned right/south on Laurel from Ravenswood as he left the scene, and that might explain why Ms. Smothers didn't avail herself of the possible safe harbor to be found at the Menlo Park police headquarters. One would hope, given the number of people who reportedly drove past both cars on Ravenswood and/or Laurel while the man was standing outside his vehicle, brandishing a weapon and shouting obscenities, that a witness will come forward with information leading to an arrest.
It would also be interesting to know the exact sequence of events leading up to and immediately following the placing of the 911 call. If Ms. Smothers had the temerity to place a Chinese takeout order *before* (or even shortly after) calling 911 then I tend to sympathize with Sgt. Simpson.
"The knee-jerk reaction <that the victim/officer is right/wrong> is unwarranted given I'm asking perfectly reasonable questions round an incident about which no one in this forum has but the barest of details."
Flip it around and you're guilty of your own charge.
It was just noted that all your comments related to the victim being at fault. "Something does not add up here. "
This incident and the police response clearly need to be investigated.
I was once blocked in on ECR at Alma, while in the left hand turn lane waiting on a red. Some middle-aged guy, for no clear reason, blocked my car at the front of the turn lane. I had to back up and take off; he clearly was up to no good.
Whether Ms. Smothers did anything to anger this man is no reason for him to behave the way he did.
On another note, I think Su Hong has gone down hill in the last few years; perhaps Ms. Smothers can spend her money somewhere she'll be safer driving to & from.
Okay, so she didn't want to walk a few feet to the police station (it's not that intimidating -- I've been there many times for parking passes) but she was willing to park somewhere downtown and walk more than 100 feet (don't tell me she got a spot right in front of the restaurant on El Camino because that never happens). I'll accept that. I can also accept that she found the sergeant's remarks rude, though I can understand where he was coming from -- a restaurant makes an odd refuge.
I do find it strange that no one reported this incident. People in MP are busybodies, and I'd sure be on the cell if I saw a man attacking a woman in the middle of a busy road. It also disturbs me that she suggests that her attacker was a police officer. To me, is the red flag.
I appreciate that she has helped the community, but that does not necessarily mean that she is law-abiding or honest.
"(don't tell me she got a spot right in front of the restaurant on El Camino because that never happens"
Su Hong To Go is not on El Camino but on Doyle St where there is always plenty of parking, including a 15 min zone, in the evening.
Okay, I'll break it open.
Those of you who question the victim's response to a threatening situation as the problem here, consider how you would react if the roles were reversed?
- older, white, woman driver, such as perhaps, my mom, harassed by a large young male of another race, and the cop (also another race) came up to her and said: "so, I guess you were just hungry, after all..." in a snarky tone.
Uh-huh. Thought so.
Until this is investigated and all reports verified, I find it ridiculous to blame the victim, whether or not she happens to be a pillar of the community.
No, not ridiculous. Offensive.
Hmmm says: "On another note, I think Su Hong has gone down hill in the last few years ..."
Agreed. My experiences there have been uniformly uninspiring. Why, I don't know, but they've gotten the last dollar they're going to get from me.
I suppose this unfortunate incident should serve as a wakeup call to those residents who claim they have no idea where the MP police headquarters is located. I assure you the gate off Laurel, where all patrol cars enter and exit, is every bit as well lit as the rather dark area round the Su Hong takeout location, which is not on El Camino and, furthermore, is adjacent to a rather dimly-lit parking lot. And the Doyle Street (?) area fronting Su Hong doesn't get all that much foot traffic round 8pm, if memory serves (I've ordered my share of Su Hong takeout).
Again, there's no point in faulting Ms. Smothers choice of refuge -- she found safety -- but other things being equal I probably would have taken my chances in front of the MP police headquarters gate at Laurel, which location was closer and has decent street traffic, and laid on my horn until I got someone's attention, especially if I felt my life was in danger. Or perhaps even safer, if sillier, I would have driven round the police parking lot in circles with the horn blaring -- only the most determined criminal is going to stick around while someone does such a thing, I'm sure.
Guess what Gern? It didn't happen to you. She may not have had a flippin' clue as to where the PD is. It's not a requirement to spending money in MP to know where the PD is, for cripe's sake.
This is why this incident should be investigated: either a hate crime happened in MP, or someone lied & is now taking up time otherwise better spent. Either way, the cop's response to utterly disrespectful & shouldn't be tolerated. You live in MP - hold your officers to a higher level of accountability.
Yes, Joe, perhaps another crime to investigate is: What in the heck happened w/Su Hong?! The General's Chicken is no longer spicy.Prices gone up, quality down. I know the economy's been bad, but that place is always busy. Oh, yeah, and the chicken salad? It's always limp.
What's a good alternative? I prefer to drop my $$ in San Mateo county whenever possible, but it has to be palatable.
For those of us in the 'hood, if we're gonna drive crosstown w/the current gas prices & deal w/lousy drivers, the food's gotta be good.
The writer of the story said she went to Su Hong on El Camino. The lead-in line contradicts the rest of the story. We don't know.
I find it disingenuous to suggest that someone who is described as familiar with local police procedure would not know the location of the police station. She managed to find it readily enough when she wanted to complain.
Given that all this happened on a busy street, I still wonder at the dearth of witnesses.
This isn't about blaming the victim. It's about keeping an open mind. It's about pointing out that there is a lot of missing info here, and until we have more details (which may not happen if Menlo Park has its way) we may never get the truth.
Hmmm wrote: "She may not have had a flippin' clue as to where the PD is."
Being a resident of another community, Hmmm, you are clearly unaware that Vicki Smothers is a local activist and longtime resident of East Palo Alto, and almost certainly knows where the MP police department is located, especially since it's adjacent to the MP city council chambers, where she has probably spent considerable time advocating for others.
Hmmm also wrote: "Either way, the cop's response to utterly disrespectful & shouldn't be tolerated."
You, and I, and everyone else in this forum know jack about the officer's response, other than what we've read in a very sparse article about the incident, which makes your high dudgeon seem idiotic.
Soleil, maybe to not blame the victim, you should stop doing it. Smothers deal mostly w/EPA PD in her work. And I sure wouldn't want to go in the direction of the bad guy - towards the PD. Really, it doesn't matter - we have free will and she went where she was familiar. Who knows what started it? But really, if it's as she said, it's inexcusable & perhaps witnesses will come forward. If she for some reasons made this all up, this will come out.
The missing info is standard - for one thing, cops never release all the info, and reporters get facts wrong all the time, as well as have their work edited. The missing pieces of info may be due to many, many reasons, none of them having to do w/the alleged victim.
The 'missing info' is totally the responsibility of the Menlo PD and the Menlo City Attorney who have, in violation of the Public Records Act, refused to release a transcript of the 911 tapes and copies of the dispatch law.
Don't assume how someone should react after this kind of confrontation.
It's very easy to think of all the things the victim should or could have done from the comfort of sitting behind your keyboard in your living room with a normal adrenaline titre.
Has the Almanac become the official publication of the ACLU?
First non-stop attacks against Atherton police officers and now the Almanac is moving their attack to Menlo Park?
This police sergeant did nothing wrong. Clearly this woman just was gunning for publicity. And your are dead wrong, Peter Carpenter. 911 calls are not public.
And "@blame the victim?," I don't get your point, if there's a point to be had. In the post you allude to I was asking questions while acknowledging none of us had even reasonably good information about the incident, and I was not making pronouncements (other than about said information). Not sure why that isn't more clear.
anonymous states:"This police sergeant did nothing wrong. Clearly this woman just was gunning for publicity. And your are dead wrong, Peter Carpenter. 911 calls are not public."
IF the police sergeant did nothing wrong then why not release the 911 tapes and the dispatch logs?
And, no the law does not say that 911 calls are not public; in fact the law states that they are public unless the agency can prove that they are being with held for good cause? What is the good cause in this case?
We have a Public Records Act for a reason and that is because we the people have the right to know what is going on in our name and with our tax dollars.
6250. In enacting this chapter, the Legislature, mindful of the
right of individuals to privacy, finds and declares that access to
information concerning the conduct of the people's business is a
fundamental and necessary right of every person in this state.
The problem people in this community of Menlo-Atherton have is that they are quick to want to put the cops on trial instead of the criminals. First there was the Buckhet fiasco where he and Carpenter wanted to make a federal case out of typos in a report. Now Carpenter wants to put a police sergeant on trial for just some light banter that was just a sense of humor to try to relax this lady (who turned out to be a vindictive publicity hound).
Now you can put the cops on trial all day long, but when that real criminal comes crawling thru your window or breaking down your door you're not going to want the cop to be put on trial then, just the perp. The problem is you can't have it both ways. If you undermine the law enforcement system by always trying to put the cops to blame instead of the criminals you will get what you wish for.
anonymous states:"Carpenter wants to put a police sergeant on trial"
No, I simply want the facts made public. If if the city won't do that then we should ask what are they hiding and why.
Reminds me of the Seinfeld episode where Elaine is informed by a theater manager that her boyfriend was in an accident -- and she goes to the snack bar to get Jujifruit before going to the hospital.
Sgt. Simpson was conducting an INVESTIGATION. It was perfectly reasonable for him to assess Ms. Smothers' credibility and to question her choice of putting Chinese food ahead of seeking help at the Police Station.
OK, so "sick of it" is clearly a cop. The Buckheit case was about typos on a report? Seriously? Really? You want to go there? That is total BS and you know it.
In this case there is clearly something missing. I don't know if it is because of the victim or the reporter. We used to say about the media that "they couldn't get a story straight if you wrote it for them." So, it could be poor reporting. It could also be that they aren't getting the full story from the victim. Every time I investigated some type of dispute the truth of what happened was usually in the middle of what the two people involved had to say. In this case we only have one side.
If the Sgt. said what he is alledged to have said, then it was less than, shall we say, empathetic.
anonymous states:"putting Chinese food ahead of seeking help at the Police Station."
It is not clear that she ordered food before she called the police.
It would be interesting and relevant to see what time her 911 call was received and what time the officer arrived at her location.
And the last time I checked you could seek police help from wherever you were located. When did the law change that you had to go to the police station to seek help? Has 911 been abolished?
"We have a policy of not releasing 911 calls, City Attorney Bill McClure said on behalf of the police department."
How convenient that the City thinks that it gets to decide what the law is on this issue. Judge, jury and executioner all in one.
6250. In enacting this chapter, the Legislature, mindful of the
right of individuals to privacy, finds and declares that access to
information concerning the conduct of the people's business is a
fundamental and necessary right of every person in this state.
Aren't there cameras on the poles at the intersection of Ravenswood/Laurel? I'm pretty sure I've seen cameras up there. Do they keep the footage? Should be easy to identify the licence plates...
Let's actually look at the applicable code section, which is Government Code 6254. It says a public agency must release records unless there is a certain exemption. Even then, they agency can release them, they just don't have to. It is quoted below.
For these police records, the victim Vicki Smothers has an absolute right to the 911 tape since it contains her own statements ("However, state and local law enforcement agencies shall disclose …statements of the parties involved in the incident…to the victims of an incident) UNLESS:
1. The disclosure would endanger the safety of a witness or other person involved in the
investigation - this clearly cannot be the case, since releasing Ms. Smothers' own 911 statement to her could endanger no one.
2. Disclosure would endanger the successful completion of the investigation or a related investigation.
There is other language in the statute that makes clear these exceptions must be construed narrowly, so the Menlo Park police would have to come up with a good reason why disclosing her own statement to her would endanger the investigation (if it is still ongoing). The city attorney stating it's a "policy" simply doesn't cut it.
Ms. Smothers can hire an attorney to sue Menlo Park under the Public Records Act. The court will order disclosure and order payment of her attorney's fees for bringing the motion. There is no basis for Menlo Park to withhold the tape to her.
For those of her who are defending the police sergeant and trying to cast aspersions on Ms. Smothers, it seems to me that Menlo Park has something they feel they need to hide by not releasing the tape. It probably would not reflect well on their own personnel involved. Otherwise why not just OBEY THE LAW and release it?
6254. Except as provided in Sections 6254.7 and 6254.13, nothing in
this chapter shall be construed to require disclosure of records
that are any of the following:
(f) Records of complaints to, or investigations conducted by, or
records of intelligence information or security procedures of, the
office of the Attorney General and the Department of Justice, the
California Emergency Management Agency, and any state or local police
agency, or any investigatory or security files compiled by any other
state or local police agency, or any investigatory or security files
compiled by any other state or local agency for correctional, law
enforcement, or licensing purposes. However, state and local law
enforcement agencies shall disclose the names and addresses of
persons involved in, or witnesses other than confidential informants
to, the incident, the description of any property involved, the date,
time, and location of the incident, all diagrams, statements of the
parties involved in the incident, the statements of all witnesses,
other than confidential informants, to the victims of an incident, or
an authorized representative thereof, an insurance carrier against
which a claim has been or might be made, and any person suffering
bodily injury or property damage or loss, as the result of the
incident caused by arson, burglary, fire, explosion, larceny,
robbery, carjacking, vandalism, vehicle theft, or a crime as defined
by subdivision (b) of Section 13951, unless the disclosure would
endanger the safety of a witness or other person involved in the
investigation, or unless disclosure would endanger the successful
completion of the investigation or a related investigation. However,
nothing in this division shall require the disclosure of that portion
of those investigative files that reflects the analysis or
conclusions of the investigating officer.
[Portions removed - Please discuss the topic, don't attack another poster.] ... Gern. I actually know some of the cops involved, so I know more about what I'm writing about than you do. Do you really have the ability to climb into Ms. Smother's mind to know if she knows where the PD is or isn't? [Portion removed] ... I can tell that your assumptions are wrong, the ones about me & the cop involved. I know where she's an activist. You get to make assumptions about the victim, I get to make assumptions about the cop's word to her. [Portion removed.]
[Portion removed. Please don't speculate about possible behavior by a named person.] (An) MP Police Officer who pulled me over for no reason--demanded to see my insurance and registration papers--declared them both to be invalid and out of date--then threw them on the floor in front of the passenger's seat--and when I leaned over to pick them back up to show him that they were all fully current --he just huffed off with saying ANYTHING at all. Not why he had stopped me to begin with, or any kind of apology for not being able to read. This took place in full day light, right at the intersection or Laurel and Ravenswood. I admire Ms Smothers for reporting the incident, and have always regretted that I was not brave enough to have gone straight over to the station to report that better professional behavior should be expected or it will continue to erode away.
I don't care if you are cop or previously had an unpleasant experience with the Menlo Park police department.
The truth is that NO ONE knows with any certainty what happened during this latest incident.
Menlo Park officials should have learned something from their neighbors in Atherton - stonewalling and obfuscation won't make this kind of issue go away. Release the 911 tapes and have someone look into these incidents. Hint: The City Council can do this quickly, easily and independently.
My comment was not a statement on compassion, just a statement. Without a witness to give more detail I don's see much happening with this incident. It's not acceptable to threaten someones life over road rage. I believe Ms. Smother's associate was gunned down in San Mateo last year, and while there is no connection Ms Smother's should receive some training on how to deal with these situations as she appears to attract violent people, driving to a local restaurant may not be the best decision.
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