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Atherton cops try again for destroying complaint records

Original post made by Try, try again, Atherton: other, on Feb 15, 2013

Last year, the Atherton police department requested that the city council permit them to destroy records of complaints Atherton taxpayers made about Atherton police officers.

Last year, the council wisely decided to draw the line at whether the officer is still employed with the APD. If so, the records don't get destroyed.

Now, the same proposal is back on the agenda for next week.

If at first you don't succeed, try, try again.

The APOA-purchased city council led by Lewis, Wiest and Carlson undoubtedly will put the interests of the cops who don't want records of resident complaints following them around ahead of the interests of the taxpaying residents.

Shame on the APOA. Shame on Lewis. Shame on Wiest. Shame on Carlson.

Shame on Ed Flint for trying this again. This is not leadership.

Comments (11)

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Posted by Michael G. Stogner
a resident of another community
on Feb 16, 2013 at 1:39 pm

If I remember right, it's not a storage space issue at all and not a cost issue at all.


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Posted by Try, try again
a resident of Atherton: other
on Feb 16, 2013 at 2:01 pm

There is actually ZERO benefit to an Atherton taxpaying resident for this maneuver. The agenda packet mentions that with a good records destruction policy, if there is a complaint or litigation over police misbehavior, the cop won't have to answer for it since the records were destroyed in advance.

This is not accountability. This is not how workers in the private sector are treated when there are dings against their personnel file. If an Atherton police officer causes a resident taxpayer distress, the message should be that's serious, and it will follow you. That is, a DETERRENT from misbehavior. This is the opposite.

This is simply the entitlement of impunity.


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Posted by Tim Wulff
a resident of another community
on Feb 16, 2013 at 7:05 pm

Well, Ask and you Shall Receive. Raises the odds from not asking certainly.

Me, I keep asking for relevant, honest reporting in the press and ethical behavior in government.

I wonder who has the higher odds of success?


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Posted by Tim Wulff
a resident of another community
on Feb 17, 2013 at 7:32 pm

I say leave the boys in blue alone. They really are guys in a unique situation just trying to do their job.

Futher, they are backed by such enormous power, its just silly to oppose them. Let them be.

I'm going to ask a series of questions that I and some of you know the answers to:
1) Does the Federal government have a National Security interest in the Town of Atherton?;
2) Is there a National Guard Swat Trained battalion on call 24/7 to protect the Town in the event of social unrest?;
3) Do a long list of nationally important business figures and government officials live here of incredible value and importance?:
4) Does the Police Department maintain unusual connections with the FBI and NSA because of these special security needs and isn't that entirely reasonable, necessary and acceptable?:
5) Have a series of Chiefs moved on to positions compensating them in the multiple 6 digits, and is former Chief Guerra an FBI consultant?;
6) Does such influence and connection overflow onto the County level and the DAs Office.
7) Was there an open case on the officer involved in the Buckheit matter with the FBI?;
8) Wasn't there a measure of reasonable justice meted out in the conclusion of his career there? and hasn't he certainly suffered enough? remember, he lost his dog, too and if you think that isn't devastating, try losing a German Shepard sometime;

Come on. Let's be realistic and humane here. This is a battle that's not going to won in some slam dunk manner. All the winning that's going to occur, has occurred.

Leave the boys in blue alone. If they want to burn records, let them.

They're just men doing their job.


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Posted by spectator
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Feb 18, 2013 at 9:08 pm

If our police department, or some members of our police department, are comfortable falsifying police reports, why not go a step further and just get rid of all incriminating documents? Why would anyone agree to allow that? If our elected officials agree to destroy public complaints against the police department I will be very concerned about who they feel they are most accountable to.


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Posted by joe friday
a resident of Atherton: other
on Feb 19, 2013 at 6:30 am

ANALYSIS
The Chief of Police has reviewed the status of 18 files (5 Internal Affairs Investigations and 13 Citizens Complaints maintained for over 5 years) to ensure there is no legal or other reason to maintain such files prior to its destruction, and the City Attorney has given his written consent for the destruction of the 18 files. In addition, the police department is asking for the approval to destroy the 2010 warning citations, where all the information is entered into our Records
Information Management System and stored indefinitely, and there is no legal reason to maintain copies separately.
The Town uses the California Government Code as a foundation for its records retention schedule. A records retention schedule is a list of all records produced or maintained by an agency and the actions taken with regards to those records. A retention schedule is an agency's legal authority to receive, create, retain, and dispose of official public records. It assists the agency by documenting which records require office or temporary storage, which records have
historic or research value, and which records should be destroyed because they no longer have any administrative, fiscal, or legal value. In the event of litigation, courts accept a retention
schedule as establishing an agency's "normal course of doing business" and duty to retain records. Retention of stale information in personnel and litigation matters can be detrimental to staff, the organization, and the Town. The City Attorney vets any records set for destruction to ensure that they have no legal value and are set for destruction consistent with applicable retention schedules.
The length of time a record must be retained to fulfill its administrative, fiscal and/or legal function is its retention period. Following its retention period a record should be disposed of in
accordance with an approved records retention schedule. An effective records retention policy is important in any organization. If the Town becomes involved in a legal dispute or a public records request, the task of going through a voluminous amount of records to produce relevant or applicable material can quickly become an enormous and costly challenge. In addition, costs directly related to storing and maintaining unnecessary records is likely an expense that does not
serve an organization's bottom line.
While over-saving records presents its own pitfalls, failing to retain records for long enough presents risks as well. Minimum retention periods are imposed by law for certain records, such as those related to employees, projects, or property. In addition, if the Town is involved or likely to be involved in a legal dispute, the Town has a legal duty to preserve records that may be relevant to that dispute. These precepts are cornerstones of the Town's records retention policies. However, it is also important to note that if relevant records have been destroyed pursuant to a sound records retention policy that is strictly complied with, there will often be a presumption that the Town will have complied with its duty. However, once litigation is pending or imminent, it is too late for an organization to establish a policy, or to begin strictly complying
with a policy that had not been enforced in the past. Regular and strict adherence to the Town's retention policy is essential to preserve the legal obligations of the Town.
It is recommended that the City Council authorize this timely and appropriate destruction of old files in accordance with the law.


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Posted by Tsk tsk
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Feb 19, 2013 at 9:23 am

>> If the Town becomes involved in a legal dispute or a public records request, the task of going through a voluminous amount of records to produce relevant or applicable material can quickly become an enormous and costly challenge.

The price of accountability. It's worth it.

>> In addition, costs directly related to storing and maintaining unnecessary records is likely an expense that does not serve an organization's bottom line.

Genuinely false statement in context: cost of storage is not a factor in the proposed destruction of these records.

>> However, it is also important to note that if relevant records have been destroyed pursuant to a sound records retention policy that is strictly complied with, there will often be a presumption that the Town will have complied with its duty.

Great way to avoid accountability! Yeah!

>> Retention of stale information in personnel and litigation matters can be detrimental to staff, the organization, and the Town.

Who defines "stale"? The person who made the complaint, or the cop against whom the complaint was made?

And, can someone, anyone, explain how destroying these records is detrimental to the Town of Atherton and its residents?


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Posted by spectator
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Feb 19, 2013 at 11:40 am

In light of the financial problems the town of Atherton has faced in recent years, at least in part as a result of lawsuits filed against the town for police misconduct, I would say a request to destroy documents relating to complaints against the police just doesn't smell right.

There have been articles lately about problems in the Menlo Park police dept - a detective who was caught with a prostitute and prosecutors who failed to hold him accountable. If there is an investigation, I'm sure it will require a review of many documents - I hope they still have them.

When I heard that an Atherton police officer had been accused and convicted of stealing golf clubs, and another of falsifying a police report, it left me a little cold. If I were the Atherton police, I would feel like I had some trust to earn back. Asking to destroy complaints just doesn't look good under those circumstances, even if it clears up a little space and sets a precedent for destroying documents on a regular basis. It's a PR problem.


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Posted by Try, try again
a resident of Atherton: other
on Feb 19, 2013 at 11:48 am

The proposal on the table seeks to minimize liability to Atherton if there is a police misconduct issue. If Atherton were a business, this would be a worthy goal. (Yes, I realize the irony of cops previously maintaining Atherton is decidedly not a business, and cannot be run like one when it comes to fiscal issues).

But since Atherton is not a business, and has duties to the public paying taxes, I'd say a more worthy goal is trying to prevent any misconduct from occurring in the first place. This involves misconduct complaints being kept. If they are truly "unfounded" (like every police complaint in Atherton has been), or clearly ridiculous, what's the problem? Anyone reading them in the future will realize this and it won't be a problem for the officer.

But if they're not, or in a grey area, destruction is just plain wrong. Further, the volume of complaints against an officer, even if all are determined by their colleagues to be "unfounded", says something as well, and this proposal would eradicate that history.

The council should do its duty to the citizens and decide, as it did last year, that complaints for active duty APD officers don't get destroyed. Ever.


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Posted by Try, try again
a resident of Atherton: other
on Feb 19, 2013 at 11:58 am

I forgot to add what might be my most important point: police misconduct can have a devastating effect on someone's life (including the potential of ending it). It is not comparable to misconduct of a postal clerk, a public works employee, etc. Because of this, the complaint process against a police officer must be held to a higher standard than usual. Yes, there are times when a false complaint will be made by someone who is simply upset they were caught doing something. But this goes with the territory of being a cop, and smart people can usually figure out when this is the case.


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Posted by spectator
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Feb 20, 2013 at 10:46 am

As noted in the other article published and commented on today in the Almanac re: "Atherton council asked to approve request to destroy police records" (btw that meeting is tonight folks), APOA contracts are up for renewal and the volume or content of those complaints may have an impact on the negotiations.

Five years is the minimum amount of time required to retain the documents. With all trouble and lawsuits we've had, I would think it wise to keep them around for a while.


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