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Police oversight committee for Atherton?

Original post made on Feb 4, 2010

Is a citizen oversight committee needed to restore confidence in the Atherton Police Department? Peter Carpenter, the president of the Atherton Civic Interest League, has approached Atherton City Council members with a proposal to create a committee to address "concern and distrust" surrounding the town's police.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Thursday, February 4, 2010, 11:41 AM

Comments (38)

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Posted by Interested
a resident of another community
on Feb 4, 2010 at 12:41 pm

I cannot see any downside to this proposal. The only question I have to Peter is why have the City Manager and Police Chief as non voting members?

If they cannot vote what would be their function on the committee?


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Feb 4, 2010 at 12:58 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

My emphasis in this proposal is on Oversight and Prevention through the establishment of police policies and procedures - rather than dealing with problems after they occur (which would also be a function of the committee).

The Town Manager and Police Chief are critical participants in a meaningful discussion on police policies and procedures and in the implementation of any recommendations that emerge from the committee.


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Posted by better late than never
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Feb 4, 2010 at 1:06 pm

I beg to differ with Mr. Carpenter on one point. I do believe that we have a crisis on our hands already.

As I see his proposal as less of a preventive measure than a mitigating measure.

The issue of whether we are heading off a problem down the road or mitigating an existing one is secondary however.

What is most important is that Peter sees a need. Let's hope the Council doesn't continue to act like an ostrich.


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Posted by Michael G. Stogner
a resident of another community
on Feb 4, 2010 at 1:13 pm

I agree that both City Manager and Police Chief should be members and attend the meetings.
If you determine that they simply refuse to comprehend and put in place an honest system of Police work, the first step would be replace the City Manager, and if that does not solve it, replace the Chief as well.


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Posted by Interested
a resident of another community
on Feb 4, 2010 at 1:22 pm

Peter, I hope you don't construe my questions as opposition to your proposal. They are not. On the contrary such a committee would be both preventative and mitigating. But my question remains.

Why have the Police Chief and City Manager as non voting members of the committee. It may well place them in the position of being on a committee whose decisions they do not agree with nor have they had the opportunity to vote in opposition to.

Presumably the Town Council can require they participate in the committees meetings and provide input.

It seems unreasonable to require a person to be a member of a committee (whose decisions you will be held responsible for) and not allow that person a vote that they can defend if called upon to do so.



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Posted by Sally
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Feb 4, 2010 at 1:47 pm

This is a ridiculous proposal for a town the size of Atherton where residents recently recorded a 90% satisfaction with the Police Dept..
Besides there already is a task force of residents who work with the PD......The Task Force for Crime Prevention!


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Posted by Interested
a resident of another community
on Feb 4, 2010 at 1:54 pm

Mr. Stogner

I don't think we have yet come to the point in this country where we can require government employees to serve on a voluntary public service committee and then terminate them because they do not "comprehend" or "agree" with the majority.

Good God, this "committee" may well produce more lawsuits than it purports to prevent.


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Posted by Ed
a resident of Atherton: other
on Feb 4, 2010 at 1:55 pm

I think the manager and chief should by required to attend with no vote as:
1) as a punishment for getting us into this mess (and paid for keeping us out of it)
2) as an incentive for keeping things in well enough in order, that there will be less meetings necessary to attend. After all--this another group of volunteer citizens having to help them do a job they are already paid to do to begin with..
3) I also think they should be sent home from meetings with big homework assignments!!


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Posted by Interested
a resident of another community
on Feb 4, 2010 at 2:02 pm

Posted by Ed, a resident of the Atherton: other neighborhood, 2 minutes ago

I think the manager and chief should by required to attend with no vote as:

1) as a punishment for getting us into this mess (and paid for keeping us out of it)

2) as an incentive for keeping things in well enough in order, that there will be less meetings necessary to attend. After all--this another group of volunteer citizens having to help them do a job they are already paid to do to begin with..

3) I also think they should be sent home from meetings with big homework assignments!!



Ed has clearly stated the reason why he should be the Chairman of this Committee........


Sorry Peter, I think you have a great idea that with some more thought might be a true asset to Atherton. But given the foregoing...I would not hold your breath


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Posted by Michael G. Stogner
a resident of another community
on Feb 4, 2010 at 2:17 pm

Sally,

Has The Task Force for Crime Prevention that you mentioned discussed your previous Chief Bob Brennan illegally accessing the criminal computer system in the John Johns case which is a Felony, or did they discuss the Jon Buckheit case where more than one of Atherton's Police Officers committed a felony, If the answer is yes what did they determine or recommend.

If not perhaps this new committee might be helpful.


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Posted by Ed
a resident of Atherton: other
on Feb 4, 2010 at 2:30 pm

It was never Peter's idea to begin with--but Canlelighter's--read "Bill of Particulars" post from this forum dated October 08
Peter is an enormously important advocate of this idea and certainly he is a good potential member of the proposed commission--A rep from ACIL makes sense


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Posted by all show and no go
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Feb 4, 2010 at 3:01 pm

To suggest that there aren't any problems with the Atherton PD, or that the only problem is a crisis of confidence is naive at best and dishonest at worst.

Get real folks, get a grip, face the facts, we have seen the enemy it wears a blue uniform and drives around town in a black and white.

Whenever a law enforcement agency can feel as though it can write a false report with impunity those subject to its enforcement authority have a real problem on their hands.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Feb 4, 2010 at 3:10 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

To facilitate this discussion, here is my actual proposal as submitted to the Town Council - I am the sole author and my rationale is included:

********************************************
I believe that the time has come to establish a mechanism for citizen oversight of the Atherton Police Department. I take this position not because I feel that there serious problems but because I believe there is a growing level of concern and distrust regarding the Police Department. Rather than waiting until we have a crisis on our hands I urge you to be proactive on this matter. I also believe that the oversight function of the proposed committee is far more important than their proposed review function - the primary objective is to prevent problems before they occur.

I am submitting this proposal to the Council as a whole, rather than to any individual member, because I realize that the issue is controversial and I wish to avoid any polarization which might occur if one of the Council members were to be the sponsor.

Police Oversight Committee (Draft)

The Atherton Town Council's Police Oversight Committee shall advise the Council, the Town Manager and the Police Chief on police policies and procedures, and shall serve as the review board for citizen complaints regarding Police Department activities.

The Oversight Committee shall consist of five citizens who are residents of Atherton and who have voted in at least three of the last five general elections. The Town Manager and the Police Chief shall be non-voting ex officio members of the Police Oversight Committee.

The Oversight Committee is subject to the Brown Act and may meet in closed session only when discussing personnel matters specifically exempted by the Brown Act. All actions and recommendations of the Oversight Committee shall be made in public session.

The Oversight Committee shall adjudicate complaints from citizens on any matter that has not been satisfactorily resolved by the Police Chief or the Town Manager. The decision of the Oversight Committee shall, unless appealed to the Town Council, be final and binding on the Town.




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Posted by Interested
a resident of another community
on Feb 4, 2010 at 3:38 pm

"The Atherton Town Council's Police Oversight Committee shall advise the Council, the Town Manager and the Police Chief on police policies and procedures"

Peter. So it is your intention that the Committee shall advise other members of the Committee on police policies and procedures?


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Posted by Interested
a resident of another community
on Feb 4, 2010 at 4:06 pm

What a shame. When I read the Almanac article I thought this was a great idea........Then I read the draft Peter Carpenter posted.

"The Oversight Committee shall consist of five citizens who are residents of Atherton and who have voted in at least three of the last five general elections."

Silly, just plain silly. Unverifiable and illegal.

"The Oversight Committee is subject to the Brown Act and may meet in closed session only when discussing personnel matters specifically exempted by the Brown Act."

Idiotic. If the Town of Atherton allowed this committee to discuss "Personnel Issues" subject to the Brown Act in Closed Session even the nuttiest judge on the bench would find the "Employer" that had the right to discuss such matters was the Town of Atherton Council and NOT a public advisory committee.

"The decision of the Oversight Committee shall, unless appealed to the Town Council, be final and binding on the Town."

WHAT.....It appears that if the Town Council does not agree with the decision of the Committee, the Town Council can appeal to the Town Council.

This is moronic


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Feb 4, 2010 at 4:07 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Interested asks:"Peter. So it is your intention that the Committee shall advise other members of the Committee on police policies and procedures?"

I do not understand this question.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Feb 4, 2010 at 4:09 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Perhaps Interested has a better proposal?


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Feb 4, 2010 at 4:15 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Interested states:""The Oversight Committee shall consist of five citizens who are residents of Atherton and who have voted in at least three of the last five general elections."

Silly, just plain silly. Unverifiable and illegal."

What is illegal? - the new State Redistricting Commission has similar requirements.

Why unverifiable - voting records (that you voted, not how you voted) are public records.

Silly is making silly claims without facts..


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Posted by Interested
a resident of another community
on Feb 4, 2010 at 4:18 pm


Interested asks:"Peter. So it is your intention that the Committee shall advise other members of the Committee on police policies and procedures?"

I do not understand this question.


Sorry I thought it was obvious. If the Police chief and the City Manager are members of the committee and the Committee is supposed to advise the City Manager and Police Chief......ergo....


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Posted by Interested
a resident of another community
on Feb 4, 2010 at 4:26 pm

Peter

Do you have a response to my other issues about the discussion of Personnel Issues and how the Town can appeal against the Committees determinations?

Or are you going to do what you do best and ignore them


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Feb 4, 2010 at 4:26 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

The Committee defined role is "shall advise the Council, the Town Manager and the Police Chief on police policies and procedures, and shall serve as the review board for citizen complaints regarding Police Department activities."


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Feb 4, 2010 at 4:32 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Interested ask, in a discourteous manner:

"Peter

Do you have a response to my other issues about the discussion of Personnel Issues and how the Town can appeal against the Committees determinations?

Or are you going to do what you do best and ignore them"

If the Committee is to pursue issues which by law are confidential personnel matters then they will have to comply with the law and do it in closed session. However the proposal clearly states "All actions and recommendations of the Oversight Committee shall be made in public session." What is the problem?

I presume that the Council could override the Committee's decisions if it so chose but it would be politically difficult to do so.


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Posted by Interested
a resident of another community
on Feb 4, 2010 at 4:34 pm

Oh, and Peter, just so you know you did not get away with it....NOTHING in the new State Redistricting Commission has anything to do with Voluntary Public Advice Committees.

You had a great idea, but you just could not resist letting your ego run wild as usual.


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Posted by Interested
a resident of another community
on Feb 4, 2010 at 4:37 pm

Interested ask, in a discourteous manner:



There was nothing discourteous about it. Is their no end to your pompousness.


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Posted by audience attendant
a resident of Atherton: other
on Feb 4, 2010 at 4:37 pm

I wonder if a good,( first of many) homework assignment for the city manager, might be to bring us report of at least 30 pages on "The History and Functionality of the LOYA JURGA System as it Might Apply Here"--no double spaced lines. Due for first session discussion.
Could someone remind me why we just gave this guy a raise, and hired him a co-manager-- so that he may attend even more meetings on how we must all help do his job.
THIS OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE IS URGENT NOW--ABSOLUTELY
But it will be ridiculous for us to get so excited about it, that we forget who to hold to account for it's necessity.
Committee immediately!!
New management as soon as possible!!--he has made the selection of two Chiefs in just over a year--and look how great that has turned out for the Department.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Feb 4, 2010 at 4:44 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Interested states, in a discourteous manner:"Oh, and Peter, just so you know you did not get away with it....NOTHING in the new State Redistricting Commission has anything to do with Voluntary Public Advice Committees.

You had a great idea, but you just could not resist letting your ego run wild as usual."

Interested is WRONG - here is the requirement for membership on the California Redistricting Commission:

-Those who pass the initial application screen will be notified and asked to complete a supplemental application. You are eligible to serve on the Commission (and will continue through the next phase) if you meet the following criteria:

* Are a registered voter and have voted in at least two of the last three general elections.

PLEASE do your homework [Portion removed; stay on topic and avoid personal attacks].


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Feb 4, 2010 at 5:03 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

I want the Town Square to continue to be a thoughtful gathering place for sharing community information and opinion. Therefore, I hope that the other readers on this Forum will understand that I will no longer respond to posts on this subject by Interested.


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Posted by Interested
a resident of another community
on Feb 4, 2010 at 5:06 pm

Peter

[Portion removed; stay on topic and avoid personal attacks]

Do you really think that your attempts to divert attention from the topic YOU RAISED will convince others to ignore the serious flaws with your proposal?

You are the first person to bemoan the fact that posters do not stay on topic. Despite your discourteous response I will ask my questions again.


"If the Town of Atherton allowed this committee to discuss "Personnel Issues" subject to the Brown Act in Closed Session even the nuttiest judge on the bench would find the "Employer" that had the right to discuss such matters was the Town of Atherton Council and NOT a public advisory committee."

A reponse......probably not

"The decision of the Oversight Committee shall, unless appealed to the Town Council, be final and binding on the Town."

It appears that if the Town Council does not agree with the decision of the Committee, the Town Council can appeal to the Town Council.


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Posted by Judge Judy
a resident of Atherton: other
on Feb 4, 2010 at 5:07 pm

The enthusiasm can come across as a little imperial.
Lets remember that democracy should be inviting.
You are both off the committee for at least 24 hours


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Posted by Interested
a resident of another community
on Feb 4, 2010 at 5:10 pm

I want the Town Square to continue to be a thoughtful gathering place for sharing community information and opinion. Therefore, I hope that the other readers on this Forum will understand that I will no longer respond to posts on this subject by Interested.


Then perhaps someone else will ask you the questions about how the Committee will hear Personnel Issues related to the Brown Act. Or how exactly the Town of Atherton will appeal to the Town of Atherton the decisions of the Committee.

[Portion removed; stay on topic and avoid personal attacks]


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Posted by Judge Judy
a resident of Atherton: other
on Feb 4, 2010 at 5:44 pm

No one is allowed to leave this thread--You are to report right back here in less than 24 hrs and continue to participate--you are needed!!!!
Try to interact with ideas-not personalities
[Portion removed; stay on topic and avoid personal attacks]


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Posted by Michael G. Stogner
a resident of another community
on Feb 4, 2010 at 5:50 pm

Interested is from another community just like I am. He/she is interested in sending this subject down the river so to speak. As we all learn how to use this media to communicate.

One subject that interest me is what do you plan to do with the one or more Atherton Police Officers who have committed Felonies recently in the Jon Buckheit case which is as current as possible?

Now if your citizens want to be steered down the river, just post something different.


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Posted by Candle Lighter
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Feb 4, 2010 at 6:30 pm

I am happy to see one of my previous suggestions from last autumn getting some wind behind it. The FACTS relating to police commissions are:

1. They absolutely may conduct hearings on citizen's complaints against officers and take testimony from the complainant and the officer. Unfortunately, this cannot be done in public since a police union sued Berkeley and San Francisco for adopting open complaint hearings. However, an authorized committee of the town can definitely do a closed complaint hearing. There are multiple precedents for this in California

2. They absolutely may determine a disposition of the complaint (i.e., sustained, not sustained, unfounded, exonerated). There are multiple precedents for this in California. It is a touchier issue of whether or not this disposition may be implemented on their authority alone. What is absolutely clear, with multiple precedents in California, is that if the Chief of Police declines to adopt their recommended complaint disposition, the Town Council would automatically get to decide which recommendation (police review board vs. chief) to adopt on behalf of the Town.

3. They probably cannot decide the actual disciplinary action for a sustained complaint. They can make a recommendation to the Police Chief, and if the Police Chief disagrees it again can be escalated to the Town Council.

It is also absolutely clear that police officers and police unions do not want these citizen review commissions and will fight very hard to prevent them to be effective. This does not mean they are not worthy bodies of review and it certainly does not mean they cannot be implemented effectively if there is political review to do so.

Peter Carpenter had many of the elements of what has been actually established in multiple municipalities in California in his proposal, but did not dot all the i's and cross all the t's. The facts presented in the message serve to do this for him.

Here are the actual references to cities who have overcome at least some of the opposition of the police unions and gotten these boards implemented:

UCal Berkeley Web Link
San Diego Web Link
San Francisco Web Link
San Jose Web Link
Oakland Web Link


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Posted by Louise
a resident of Atherton: other
on Feb 4, 2010 at 7:31 pm

Candle--Please reveal yourself at some appropriate time so that we can have you chair the first commission meeting
Thank you for lighting our way through these shadows.


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Posted by Interested
a resident of another community
on Feb 4, 2010 at 8:37 pm

It is amazing to me that the Almanac chooses to delete portions of posts that question Peter Carpenters ego in this effort. Almanac, YOUR A JOKE


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Candle Lighter
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Feb 5, 2010 at 12:18 am

Let's just stop the bickering over egos and insults and discuss these very valid issues. I have stated facts and provided references for citizen police oversight bodies that can legally exist in California.

That's the how. The why is also quite simple. The smaller the police department, the more these independent bodies are needed. The smaller the department (like Atherton) the more friendships exist between discipline giver (chief) and cops, and interfere with proper decision making just based on human nature.


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Posted by Awareness
a resident of another community
on Feb 5, 2010 at 11:44 am

The Candle Lighter is quite accurate.
These are a series of many "small" mostly rich per capita communities who are perfect target for crimes during these times.
The five houses burglarized and mentioned in this very edition, are not part of these posts and because of high unemployment in the nearby areas and very little propect for jobs, makes this entire area covered by the ALMANAC, vulnerable to crime, and committees should be set up to determine the status, the condition, the sharpness, the AGES of ALL the local police departments,including their Chiefs and for the protection which all of us pay for.
I do not see things improving for years but I do see crime--in all levels--rising. The banking industry got it first and it is working its way down to the average citizen.
In this County which is "commission happy", "Council happy","opinion happy" and yet what Mr.Carpenter, who is always pretty logical, does make sense in this simple appeal to make sure that we have a reliable
police force and I think his subtle "concern and distrust" should extend to the other cities which fall into that category of being good targets for future crime.
This entire area which pays a LOT of money for police protection, probably has not done a really comprehensive "clean up" of our peace keepers who probably had the most cushy jobs witht the least crime until this current recession/Depression. Why wait until it is out of control? Crime is more than likely going to rise more and more unless people think they are protected by just the uniforms and new police vehicles.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Michael G. Stogner
a resident of another community
on Feb 6, 2010 at 5:39 am

There is something that could have happened a couple of days ago.

The Town of Atherton can announce through a PRESS release that from now on Police Reports will be made available for a slight fee to the parties involved. Its possible your City Manager and Police Chief are not aware of this blog/thread so please pass this on to them.

This action does not need a committee.

Police Reports are Public Record:Web Link

The articles above show the Attorney General of the State of California, County Counsel of San Mateo, District Attorney of San Mateo have all declared Police Reports are PUBLIC RECORD.

This announcement should happen today.


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