Daughter alleges misconduct in father's arrest Menlo Park, posted by Editor, The Almanac Online, on Nov 30, 2011 at 2:31 pm
The daughter of Menlo Park resident William Burnett, an assistant professor at Stanford University, is alleging police misconduct in connection with his arrest on suspicion of allowing teenage drinking at a party at his house in the 1200 block of Woodland Avenue at around 11 p.m. Friday, Nov. 25.
Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, November 30, 2011, 1:56 PM
Posted by WhoRUpeople, a resident of another community, on Nov 30, 2011 at 2:31 pm
I have three reactions to this article--all three of them negative.
First, Almanac, since when is getting corroboration from the accused fulfill the responsibility to corroborate stories before printing them? "Mr. Burnett said his daughter was not at home at the time, but confirmed the accuracy of her statements". Sorta like, my alibi is telling the truth, so no worries. Terrible reporting in my opinion. Second, if it comes to pass that it can be proven that the MP police officers on scene really treated these people as described, especially the innocent passer-by, heads should roll in that department and the SM County DA needs to get involved in the investigation, NOW. Third, no matter how well or poorly this was handled by the police, it does not forgive the fact that these adults, if indeed alcohol was allowed at the party with their knowledge, violated the law. I don't care what you do for a living or where you live.
Posted by bob, a resident of the Woodside: other neighborhood, on Nov 30, 2011 at 2:41 pm
Most kids follow the lie deny and admit to nothing theory,[portion deleted]. Everyone involved in this will try to blame the police. 40 kids celebrating a football win I am sure there was plenty to drink and high school kids will lie when alcohol is involved. Let the investigation happen and then the blame falls where it should.
Posted by Atherton Resident, a resident of the Atherton: West Atherton neighborhood, on Dec 1, 2011 at 4:07 pm Atherton Resident is a member (registered user) of Almanac Online
I agree with everything that WhoRUpeople and Bob of Woodside said ....
In a nut shell, there is no excuse for 40 kids (16-17 years old) to be drinking in a home where the two adult homeowners are present!?!? That is more abusive and traumatic on the kids, long-term, than what the police allegedly did.
It's ILLEGAL for kids under 21 to drink alcohol! And it can impede brain development. Not to mention, it dulls a child's ability to be comfortable with their sober self.
If the argument is to "teach kids to drink responsibly," how about teaching them when they legally come of age. If the argument is, "they will do it anyway, so better to have them within my eye and care," then I have two comments: A. if you must, then teach your own kids - not other people's kids. B. Realize you are also teaching them to break the law. Would you be upset if your child decided not to wear a seat belt?
Personally, I am all for smaller government and I do not like to be told what to do by so many "laws!" But when it comes to kids we must put on a different hat - What about teaching them self-respect, that they can have fun without alcohol, that they don't need to follow the crowd? I know, "Kids will be kids." They will push the limits. They want to fit in. So when they do, what about taking a stand and professing integrity and values? We could use this incident at a teachable moment - i.e. that their are consequences to our actions.
It seems to me that a lot of parents want their kids to be popular and they think that drinking goes hand in hand with popularity. Same goes for adults. Maybe we should each ask ourselves how we use/need alcohol and if we are defending our own use of alcohol and need to "fit in" by enabling children to do/feel the same?
Posted by teen, a member of the Menlo-Atherton High School community, on Dec 1, 2011 at 7:02 pm teen is a member (registered user) of Almanac Online
I'm sure that you guys drank when you were teenagers and the majority of our parents knew where we were. She may not have been there but I was and this is all fact. This was handled ridiculously for example I was at a party two weeks ago in Atherton, the police came and they just let everyone go and the parents who were there didn't get in ANY trouble.
Posted by Haflack, a resident of the Menlo Park: The Willows neighborhood, on Dec 2, 2011 at 4:51 pm Haflack is a member (registered user) of Almanac Online
one commenter said, "In a nut shell, there is no excuse for 40 kids (16-17 years old) to be drinking in a home where the two adult homeowners are present!?!? That is more abusive and traumatic on the kids, long-term, than what the police allegedly did."
I just don't understand wat is so abusive or traumatic about a house party. Watching police brutality, on the other hand will likely breed resentment towards the police, which only leads to more unrest and resistance. In terms of negative effects on society, i think police brutality is higher on the list than a house party where adults are present to step in if anything goes really wrong.
Posted by Haflack, a resident of the Menlo Park: The Willows neighborhood, on Dec 2, 2011 at 5:17 pm Haflack is a member (registered user) of Almanac Online
Peter, there are a lot of things worse than kids having a few drinks. If you already think that being drunk is so bad, imagine the potential accidents and injuries at a party. If people are too afraid of the police to call them if and when they feel uncomfortable or threatened or if they think someone is in danger or hurt, then those potentially more harmfull situations could go unchecked. The police should not so explicitly align themselves as the enemy of students and teens because their job is ultimately to protect them, and they need to inspire trust and respect to be effective.
Posted by Collegekid, a resident of the Menlo Park: other neighborhood, on Dec 2, 2011 at 5:31 pm Collegekid is a member (registered user) of Almanac Online
With the highly publicized police brutality of the Occupy protests, it is easy to play on people's current fear of a militarized police force that can barge into your house and mistreat you and your ailing wife. Those of us who are residents of Menlo Park know full well that this is not the case with the Menlo Park Police. I trust that if police entered Mr. Burnett's home, they either had probable cause or were invited in. I also trust that if police did break the law, then Mr. Burnett certainly has the means to defend himself and prove this in court.
As for underage drinking, the fact is that the legal drinking age is 21. If people truly believe that the drinking age should be lower than 21, then they are free to petition their government representatives.
No matter what happened that night, I am personally grateful that the police had all teens suspected of being under the influence call their guardians to drive them home. Not only does that save lives, but gives parents an opportunity to educate their children about alcohol (especially with college approaching for many of these students).
Posted by MAnage Yourself, a resident of the Menlo Park: Sharon Heights neighborhood, on Dec 2, 2011 at 5:32 pm MAnage Yourself is a member (registered user) of Almanac Online
Atherton Resident, you want to be prejudice against kids now, wow I thought our society moved on from that.
I think, hell, if the kids want to drink let them. By not drinking, they are only postponing the inevitable. The majority of the kids were seniors anyways.
Who cares! Unless your child was directly involved then no one has anything to say. If your child did go and you had no idea, then maybe you should be looking at your own parenting skills and stop blaming others.
I have respect for SOME of the work that the police do, but when it comes to the Menlo Park/Atherton police, seriously they need to take a chill pill and eat more donuts. [portion deleted.]
Posted by menlo voter, a resident of the Menlo Park: other neighborhood, on Dec 2, 2011 at 7:23 pm menlo voter is a member (registered user) of Almanac Online
To those who keep making a big issue out the lack of mirandizing of the arrestee - you've all been watching too mutch television. It is only necessary to mirandize an arrestee if you are going ot question them and use their answers against them. If the police haven't arrested someone they do not have to mirandize. In teh case of this stupid professor, I suspect he was mirandized later when the police wanted to take his statement.
Posted by menlo voter, a resident of the Menlo Park: other neighborhood, on Dec 2, 2011 at 7:32 pm menlo voter is a member (registered user) of Almanac Online
One other thing. For those of you that think this is no big deal and the police should have just let everyone go. What would you be saying if one of those drunk kids who were "just let go" got into a car and killed someone? That's right you'd all be screaming for those police officers scalps, and rightly so. The officers called for guardians to come pick up CHILDREN that had been drinking and could not LEGALLY be behind the wheel. The ethics of this community are disgusting.
Posted by Atherton Resident, a resident of the Atherton: West Atherton neighborhood, on Dec 2, 2011 at 8:20 pm Atherton Resident is a member (registered user) of Almanac Online
Dear Manage Yourself:
I am not prejudice against kids! Actually I am PRO kids and want to mentor and guide them to have self respect, integrity and personal fulfillment. Drinking alcohol at age 16 is counterproductive to that!
And YES I DO CARE, that's why I am speaking out. The elders in our society need to care for the young ones. I'm not about damning and punishing - I hope these kids learn something positive from their mistakes rather than play victim and blame blame blame.
Posted by Margaret Ringler, a resident of the Menlo Park: other neighborhood, on Dec 2, 2011 at 10:22 pm Margaret Ringler is a member (registered user) of Almanac Online
For those of you who are upset parents allowed teens to drink in their presence: would you have preferred the teens to lie and drink unsupervised?
Teens have been drinking underage for decades and will continue to.
IF teens are going to drink with or without parent supervision.
It is WAY better for parents to be there incase things get out of hand: take away keys and avoid binge drinking etc.
The appeal to "21, it's the law" : One should not blindly follow law just because its the law. There have been plenty of ugly unjust laws in history. One should follow law because it's reasonable. Having a legal drinking age is reasonable an excellent idea.
However, on a side note, I think it is illogical to allow 18 year olds to risk death in war, but refuse them a drink.
Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of the Atherton: Lindenwood neighborhood, on Dec 3, 2011 at 7:52 am Peter Carpenter is a member (registered user) of Almanac Online
Perhaps Menlo Park should just declare itself an Amnesty Zone where laws that people don't like or which they find inconvenient can simply be ignored. The Brown Act and underage drinking would be the first two such laws and then perhaps such things as ignoring Stop signs (but only in one's own neighborhood) and then maybe paying taxes for things which individuals don't like.
And then the Menlo Park Police Department could just be told to work from home and only respond when something 'really bad' happens - and the Council could hold meetings to decide when such an event has taken place.
"youngsters who drank in front of adults were more likely to have drinking problems several years later than those who abstained."
“Kids need parents to be parents and not drinking buddies. Adults need to be clear about what messages they are sending. Kids need black and white messages early on. Such messages will help reinforce limits as teens get older and opportunities to drink increase,”
Posted by localteen, a resident of the Atherton: other neighborhood, on Dec 3, 2011 at 6:57 pm localteen is a member (registered user) of Almanac Online
This comment section is getting out of hand. Clearly there's a bunch of adults who have strong opinions about underage drinking. This isn't the place to have a drawn out debate about why you should or shouldn't obey authority, or if drinking with parents is more acceptable. Yes I am an 18 year old, who was lucky enough to have gone on vacation during this break and not show up at this party. I am personally very good friends with most everyone at the party, and the Burnett family. Yes I do drink and I've been to plenty of parties with and without parental supervision in the area, many of which also have had police encounters. So please stop squabbling about what is right and wrong because nothing will come of it, fact is people like me are going to keep on doing what we do. We need to look at the facts. The Burnett family is making a lawsuit out of this, and with good reason. The American way is not to find what is morally correct or, sadly, what is true. Whichever side presents the best case, will win, and that is all it comes down to. The police breathalized one individual, an 18 year old who I will not reveal, and he blew clean and was allowed to drive other adults at the Burnett resident home after the conflict. Other than that no one was breathalized, and did not find any alcohol. If Mr. Burnett wasn't read his rights, that also is a big problem. All of this will hopefully come to light through the police officer's audio recorders that were in use during the entire event. Whoever has the better case will win, and I'd be lying if I said that I stood neutral. Menlo Park police clearly botched this party situation. I have personally seen police act responsibly and accordingly to the law at many parties which usually stops with a confrontation at the door or driveway. Anyways, to wrap up my tangent, think what you want about what horrible family this must be and how you would have done better, it doesn't matter. Law is law, and the police have no case.
Posted by localteen, a resident of the Atherton: other neighborhood, on Dec 3, 2011 at 7:11 pm localteen is a member (registered user) of Almanac Online
Also, enough with the stupid comments about "What if people drove illegally/drunk and killed someone". The police called the parents of every minor, regardless of whether they were drunk or not, and forced there parents to pick them up no matter how inconvenient it was. I personally know that my friend, who had a safe ride home with a sober 18 year old, was forced to wait for his dad, who was in san mateo at the time, to pick him up. Drinking and driving accidents should be kept separate of this poorly handled situation, and its not as if the police couldn't breathalize drivers (duh). 'What if's' and 'should haves' can't be used against the law, so please stop trying to argue for the law with them.
Posted by localteen, a resident of the Atherton: other neighborhood, on Dec 3, 2011 at 7:34 pm localteen is a member (registered user) of Almanac Online
And as for you Peter Carpenter, what on earth are you doing? You're not writing a research paper please don't try to bring out quotes from some article you found on line. Children need to be handled by the parents as is appropriate because every child is unique. The last place any parent is going to learn something is from reading you [portion deleted] comments on this article. We could all pull quotes [portion deleted] and try to teach each other about life and what is write or wrong, but it would be extremely pointless. If you can't muster up something to say yourself, just don't say anything at all. Don't act like you know what is best for everybody's kids because you have some article you found online to back you up. Pathetic.
Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of the Atherton: Lindenwood neighborhood, on Dec 3, 2011 at 8:30 pm Peter Carpenter is a member (registered user) of Almanac Online
localteen - perhaps you would like to contribute to the " thoughtful gathering place for sharing community information and opinion" on the more general subject of underage drinking under adult supervision that was started elsewhere on this Forum:
Posted by The Rev. Loon, a resident of the Menlo Park: other neighborhood, on Dec 3, 2011 at 8:47 pm The Rev. Loon is a member (registered user) of Almanac Online
Good idea, since the title of this thread is "Daughter alleges misconduct in father's arrest", and it's important to realize, intellectually, that even if your own view of underage drinking implies Mr. Burnett was 100% wrong, and he committed a crime, it does not excuse any possible police misconduct that occurred in relation to this incident. These are two totally separate situations. The response to the alleged misconduct cannot be "Mr. Burnett broke the law" as that is non-responsive. My opinion, for whatever it is worth, is that these misconduct allegations are serious and if verifiable, heads should roll.
Posted by LocalTeen, a resident of the Atherton: other neighborhood, on Dec 4, 2011 at 1:29 am LocalTeen is a member (registered user) of Almanac Online
Anyways Peter Carpenter, without getting off topic, no matter how strongly apposed your [portion deleted] heart is to underage drinking doesn't change the fact that police did things they worn't supposed to. And when it's proved in court, it will be a warning to the MPPD not to over step their boundaries in the future. Heck maybe even some bad cops will get the boot.
Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of the Atherton: Lindenwood neighborhood, on Dec 4, 2011 at 7:42 am Peter Carpenter is a member (registered user) of Almanac Online
localteen - I believe that we should all obey the laws, including the laws on underage drinking and the laws on the use of police power. You seem to want to ignore the former while insisting on the latter.
Is it your philosophy of life that the laws only apply to other people?
Posted by localteen, a resident of the Atherton: other neighborhood, on Dec 4, 2011 at 12:29 pm localteen is a member (registered user) of Almanac Online
Peter Carpenter, there's a huge difference between police breaking the law and a bunch of teenagers doing so. We're talking about a bunch of 17 year olds who don't really have any independent rights yet. Police are the men and women that our community pumps so much money into, and who we're supposed to trust to uphold law, justice, and protection. When they screw things up, I personally find it very hard to forgive. Peter, you might think that this situation is some distant problem that is only linked to you through the fact that it happened close to you. I've been friends with these underage drinking rascals throughout high school, and to see so many of the people I care about treated poorly obviously causes me to question he authority.
Your opinion, no offense, sounds dull and un-inspired. So you think people should obey laws? Well that great. Once we can get everybody to do that, then we won't even need police. I've made my opinion loud and clear: I believe that the police over-stepped their boundaries and will pay for doing so in court. Yes there was probably underage drinking going on, but it all comes down to the evidence they have, and their case doesn't look good.
So Peter, you clearly are opposed to underage drinking, I understand. But in this specific situation you wouldn't say that the police acted irrationally and more importantly illegally? And if so, don't you think they should be punished?
Posted by juris, a resident of another community, on Dec 4, 2011 at 2:01 pm juris is a member (registered user) of Almanac Online
I think your emotion is getting the better of you. Sit back and examine the facts, however dull and uninspiring they might be.
The difference with this teen alcohol party and others you may have attended is an adult knew about it and, apparently, facilitated it. Other teen parties with alcohol are typically held without an adult's knowledge. The parents then work with the cops to shut it down. "Justice" is then served within the family unit.
The contributing to the delinquency charge requires the adult do something which causes or enables a minor to break the law. I think knowingly providing the environment for underage drinking is going to meet the elements. Evidence of alcohol will be important, but so will witness statements and other evidence.
Miranda may not have been required. It's not like TV. The adult would need to have been under arrest before the questions were asked. And, if not under arrest, there would need to be some level of force which qualified as "Miranda Custody". It's a bit more complex than you suggest.
I do understand that this adult thought he was being responsible by providing a safe environment. But the law does not make a exception for such good intentions. Other than the DA refusing to file the case, his best hope is finding 12 people who think his intentions mitigate his guilt. Or, there's always the possibility of a plea bargain.
From a criminal and civil liability perspective, he would have been better off being off the premises. He would have been better off pleading ignorance to the use of alcohol by minors. By being present and knowing of it, he's gotten himself into a bit of a pickle. Had one of the juveniles been hurt, it could have cost him dearly. He can thank the cops for limiting his exposure to that possibility.
As for the civil suit against Menlo Park, what constitutional right does he allege the Police violated? It's not obvious to me given the accounts I've read to date.
Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of the Atherton: Lindenwood neighborhood, on Dec 4, 2011 at 2:08 pm Peter Carpenter is a member (registered user) of Almanac Online
juris is correct. Teen Alcohol Safety Act of 2010, adding California to the large preponderance of states that impose potential "social host" liability on adults who knowingly provide alcohol to minors who are subsequently injured or killed as a result of this lack of parental care.
Posted by LocalTeen, a resident of the Atherton: other neighborhood, on Dec 4, 2011 at 5:09 pm LocalTeen is a member (registered user) of Almanac Online
Juris, you must not have read all of my previous comments. I stated "Yes I do drink and I've been to plenty of parties with and without parental supervision in the area, many of which also have had police encounters. " I don't know what "typical" teen parties you are talking about, but parties with parents that I have been to are usually much safer, more tame, and free of drug use. Understandably, underage drinking is still illegal, but did the cops see alcohol before they barged in? Did they breathalyze anybody? I know people in this comment thread have been talking about what examples need to be set for silly little impressionable teenagers like myself. And the example that is being set is that the crazy-parent free parties where drunk people fight, do drugs, cause property damage, and sprint from the police, seem like the safer option.
I don't want to sound like a smarty-pants but what it comes down to is it sounds like I have a lot more experience in this matter than anybody else in this comment thread. I'm getting tired of re-wording the same thing, so refer to my previous comments.
When this case settles, I'll be the one cheering 'I told you so'.
Posted by juris, a resident of another community, on Dec 4, 2011 at 7:08 pm juris is a member (registered user) of Almanac Online
Had the cops "breathalized" (new verb, by the way) everyone, they would have indeed made a huge error. Outside of everyone consenting to taking the breath test, it would have been an illegal search. The cops, apparently, were playing by the rules after all.
Your inquiry into how the cops came to be inside the home is relevant. Based on what I've read, I don't have a good answer. Is this the cause of action in the proposed civil suit? Perhaps a guest invited them into the home. Or, could the door have been left open as an invitation to enter? However it happened, they did come inside and, apparently, observed illegal activity -- something they are not required to ignore.
You're quite correct that our laws do not give safe harbor to adults who host teen parties which serve alcohol. That it might be a good idea does not entitle you to simply do it. The law must be changed first. Until then, teens will have to suffer the unsafe, less tame, drugs available gatherings free of adult involvement.
By the way, there is a law which covers Providing Alcohol to Minors and there's a $250 non-negotiable penalty for those under 21 who bring the booze; the penalty is $1,000 for an adult.
To the extent the take aways from this incident are lost upon the teenagers, the situation is not a total loss. I suspect some parents and adults now have received the message loud and clear. For them, the lesson is "lots to lose; nothing to gain" by hosting such a social event.
Posted by LocalTeen, a resident of the Atherton: other neighborhood, on Dec 4, 2011 at 8:59 pm LocalTeen is a member (registered user) of Almanac Online
Guess we'll just have to wait and see the outcome.
On a side note, I think people, especially teen agers, need to be informed on what rights they do and don't have. Can't they teach it in school or something? I have no idea what I can and can't do when approached by a cop.
Posted by Menlo Voter, a resident of the Menlo Park: other neighborhood, on Dec 4, 2011 at 9:47 pm Menlo Voter is a member (registered user) of Almanac Online
unfortunately you do come off as something of a "smarty pants." What you forget is that those of us older than you did many of the things you are doing now. With the wisdom of our experience and the wonder of 20/20 hindsight we know how stupid much of what we did was. In fact, I sometimes wonder why I'm still alive. Someday when you have kids your age you will understand. I know that sounds like the typical stuff coming from old people, but it's typical for a reason. Most all of us have "been there and done that" and lived to tell the tale. With hindsight we realize how stupid and naive we were.
My advice when dealing with police (as a former police officer) is to keep your mouth shut. The less you say, the less can be used against you. The more you pop off, the more you're going to piss off the officer. I know it's not fair, but it's reality. They have the power and they will be believed. You on the other hand will come off as a "smarty pants." Trust me. I did the job long enough to give you this advice. Bottom line - keep your mouth shut and do what your told, no matter how egregious you think the officer's behavior is. The time to complain is after you and the officer are no longer in contact. Until that time, the officer may just find some reason to arrest you. It sucks, but that's the reality. I found out a long time ago to not get in a pissing contest with someone that works with multiple books of laws three inches thick. There's always something in there you did wrong.
Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of the Atherton: Lindenwood neighborhood, on Dec 5, 2011 at 4:29 am Peter Carpenter is a member (registered user) of Almanac Online
localteen - Thanks again for participating in this discussion; your perspective has been very helpful.
As Menlo Voter states, we old folks have been there and done that and some of what we did was very stupid - we would like to help you and others learn from our mistakes. We have a lot more experience on these issues than you do simply because we long ago lived through those fun, challenging and difficult years that you are now enjoying.
Posted by Hmmm, a resident of another community, on Dec 5, 2011 at 10:13 am Hmmm is a member (registered user) of Almanac Online
I appreciate everyone's input here & on the related threads. The young'uns who've weighed in here have had insightful things to say from their experience & contemporary point of view.
I recall my parents' wisdom when I was a teen, especially my father's. I can only imagine the trouble I'd get into if I had less wise, caring parents. Laws have also changed since the Dark Ages when I was an adolescent. The parents weighing in here also care - not just about their own kids, but about the young people in our community.
localteen, please keep that good head on your shoulders & stay safe.
As dramatic as the happenings were at the Burnett's the other night, we would all be more upset if any of those kids had gotten hurt or killed, so I'm glad our debating is more about what ifs & alleged unjustice instead of true tragedy.
Hopefully we'll be able to follow what happens with this case here in The Almanac.
Posted by localteen, a resident of the Atherton: other neighborhood, on Dec 5, 2011 at 1:52 pm localteen is a member (registered user) of Almanac Online
Just to clarify, when I said that I had more experience in this matter, I wasn't talking very broadly. I mean specifically, I have witnessed many occasions like the burnett party, recently, and in this exact area. Fact is times are changing, and when you all were kids the drinking age could have been, and probably was, 18. What I was trying to get at is I have personally experienced how police treat me and my friends at these kinds of events with parents or without parents. I was in no way trying to claim that in my 18 years of living I had accumulated more life wisdom then you old folk. Just because you guys are older than me doesn't mean you understand me and my generation...better than we do.
Posted by believer in science, a resident of the Woodside: Mountain Home Road neighborhood, on Dec 13, 2011 at 7:56 pm believer in science is a member (registered user) of Almanac Online
To Eliza Burnett,
It's understood that this is an emotional issue to have your father arrested. But can you help explain something per the following comment on this website from a teen at your parents house:
"Posted by teen, a member of the Menlo-Atherton High School community, on Nov 29, 2011 at 10:03 pm
teen is a member (registered user) of Almanac Online
As a teen at the party I would just like to state that everything was exaggerated not ALL 44 teens were drunk like it said on the cover of the Daily Post. Also the majority of our parents knew where we were that night. Mr. Burnett and his wife took away the keys of all the kids who drove there. Yes we are all under the age of 21 but we were drinking responsibly and the majority of us are seniors who are going to college next year so we were experiencing what will obviously be done in college in a safe way."
If there wasn't any alcohol being consumed at your parents house by teens, why did Stanford Professor Burnett take away the teens' keys?