Atherton meetings in YouTube spotlight

Atherton police officers association videotaping some town meetings

Although many local city council meetings are televised or webcast for the benefit of residents who aren't able to attend them, the Atherton City Council decided in 2004 that it would be too expensive to contract with the local cable station to televise its monthly meetings.

Viewing meetings remotely now may be an option, at least through budget season, thanks to the Atherton Police Officers Association's videotaping of "select" town meetings and posting them on YouTube.

The association (APOA) announced the YouTube postings of two meetings the March 7 meeting of the Finance Committee and the council's March 16 meeting -- on its website on March 19. Officer Brad Mills, the APOA president, said in an email that the association wanted to provide members and town residents access to meetings they were unable to attend.

He said that deciding on which future meetings to videotape "is a fluid process." But concerns about the town's finances and recent talk about the possibility of outsourcing the police department make it likely that more meetings at which the budget is discussed are priorities for videotaping.

"Our members are interested about the town budget issues and the long-term financial stability/security of the town," Officer Mills wrote. Citing many years of service to the town by some officers and police staff, he added, "Our members want to see the town of Atherton get through this.

"Also, this is something that has the potential to directly affect our (members') home budget and family life."

The reaction to the videotaping by some posters on the Almanac's online Town Square forum suggested that at least a few people were nervous that the police officers' organization was behind the camera. And Mayor Jim Dobbie was quoted in a local newspaper as saying the taping is inappropriate. (Mr. Dobbie could not be reached for comment before press time.)

But several residents and one council member who talked to the Almanac said the taping is legal, and they were comfortable with it, although some cautionary thoughts were expressed.

Resident Jon Buckheit, a regular council meeting attendee who is suing the town and three police officers, said, "My sense is the police union is recording these meetings to ensure issues that are important to them are brought to the attention of their supporters in the community.

"Given the importance of providing an environment in which members of the public can speak forthrightly, if an unintended consequence of this decision is some individuals feeling they cannot, I trust the police officers would reconsider their decision."

Mr. Buckheit said he doesn't believe the association's intent is intimidation. But "it may keep people from speaking frankly about outsourcing" police services during budget discussions, he said.

Councilwoman Kathy McKeithen said, "I don't have a problem with it at all," adding that many city council meetings are broadcast, something she had pushed for in the past for Atherton. She said she would prefer that the town provide the service, but it's unlikely to do so because of costs.

Ms. McKeithen noted that, with the town discussing tough financial strategies that include outsourcing police and other town services, the timing of the videotaping decision might raise questions. "If there's another motivation behind it (other than transparency), that would be unfortunate," she said. "But I'm not uncomfortable with it."

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Like this comment
Posted by Ed
a resident of Atherton: other
on Apr 4, 2011 at 5:01 pm

Plain and simple--this is all about a guaranteed slice of the pie--no mater what size the pie might be.
Because of the Town's current budget pressures, the APD is desperate to lock down at least 60% of whatever the parcel tax might be year to year, as well as the 50% plus of the regular budget as a whole-- which they already receive.
The police department is the only department that you will see organize in this way to secure itself--the rest of the Town's ability to function be damned.
Does the APD exist to service the Town?
Or does the Town exist to service the APD ??

Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 4, 2011 at 6:17 pm

The law is clear that the police union may tape these meetings:

54953.5. Recording meetings

(a) Any person attending an open and public meeting of a legislative body of a local agency

shall have the right to record the proceedings with an audio or video tape recorder or a still or motion

picture camera in the absence of a reasonable finding by the legislative body of the local agency that

the recording cannot continue without noise, illumination, or obstruction of view that constitutes, or

would constitute, a persistent disruption of the proceedings.


However, the police union would be wise to consider the public's perception of their action. If the public perceives that this taping is being done to intimidate council members, committee members or the public then this action will backfire on the police union. In addition they must be absolutely certain that they do not use public resources or paid time to perform the taping and subsequent distribution of this material - including any Town computers or internet connections.
Note that there is already any Forum Topic on this issue with lots of comments.

Like this comment
Posted by Historian
a resident of Atherton: West of Alameda
on Apr 4, 2011 at 6:36 pm

Brad Mills, the president of the POA was one of the officers who participated in what the ex finance director complains was a false arrest.

Mills was also the one who gave the finance director a warning that his car would be towed even though parking in the Town hall parking lot was perfectly legal.

Don't believe for a minute, the videotaping of Atherton City Council meeting by Mills isn't intimidation.

Don't believe for a minute the City Council doesn't mind being videotaped. The City Council is mad as hell.

Brad Mills and the POA have displayed incredibly poor judgment. They have bitten the hand that feeds them.

Are these the kind of people you want wandering around your neighborhood armed and authorized to use deadly force?

Its time to outsource. These guys are thugs.

Like this comment
Posted by Brisbane
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 4, 2011 at 8:06 pm

Residents of Atherton should be very concerned about the judgment of its police force. The former Chief who's now driving a patrol car as a deputy in San Mateo County used to joke about using deadly force.

He also received counseling on his anger management problem. It was that man who had significant influence in promoting Guerra and Wade.

Our police force has devolved to a state where it resembles organized crime.

Something's gotta give.

Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 4, 2011 at 8:22 pm

Atherton could cut its cost of police services in half (and that would include extra patrols beyond the County standard) if it outsourced to the Sheriff as do Woodside and Portola Valley. This $2.5 M annual saving would eliminate the Town's structural deficit.

Agencies which have their own Police Department:

As of the census of 2000, there were
7,194 people
4.9 square miles (12.8 km²)
Police budget $4.9 M
$681 per capita

Redwood City
As of the census[1] of 2008, there were
75,508 people
34.6 sq miles
Police budget $31.7 M
$419 per capita

Palo Alto
As of the census of 2000, there were 58,598
23.7 sq miles
Police budget $29M
$494 per capita

Foster City
As of the census of 2000, there are 28,803
The city has a total area of 19.9 square
miles (51.6 km²), of which 3.8 square miles
(9.7 km²) is land and 16.2 square miles
(41.9 km²) is water.
Police budget $9.6 M
$333 per capita

As of the census of 2000, there were 28,158
The city has a total area of 15.6 km² (6.0 mi²).
11.2 km² (4.3 mi²) of it is land and 4.4 km²
(1.7 mi²) of it (28.19%) is water.
Police budget $9.5M
$337 per capita

As of the census[5] of 2000, there were
10,825 people
The town has a total area of 6.2 square miles
(16.1 km²), all of it land.
Police budget $8M
$739 per capita

Los Altos
The population was 27,693 according to the
2000 census.
6.3 square miles (16.4 km²).
Police dept budget $13.46 M
$485 per capita

Menlo Park
As of the census of 2000, there were 30,785
17.4 square miles (45 km2), of which
10.1 square miles (26 km2) is land
and 7.3 square miles (19 km2) is water. Police services budget $14.69 M
$477.148 per capita

East Palo Alto
As of the census of 2009, there were 35,791 people,
2.6 square miles (6.7 km²), of which 2.5 square miles (6.6 km²) are land and 0.04 square miles (0.1 km²) of it (0.78%) are water.
Police budget $10,262,651
$287 per capita

Agencies which contract out their police services:

The population was 30,318 at the 2007 census.
The city has a total area of 21.1 square miles
(31.4 km²)
Police costs via County Sheriff $4.34 M
$143 per capita

11.8 square miles (30.5 km²)
As of the census of 2000, there were
5,352 people
Police services via County Sheriff $1.3 M
$242 per capita

Portola Valley
The population was 4,462 at the 2000 census
9.2 square miles (23.7 km²)
Police services via Sheriff $498,601
$111 per capita

San Carlos
The population was 27.238 in 2008
5.93 square miles
Police services via proposed Sheriff's contract
$6.8 M
$248.62 per capita

Like this comment
Posted by Stewart
a resident of Atherton: other
on Apr 4, 2011 at 8:43 pm

Shortly after Buckheit got his declaration of factual innocence the police showed up at his door one late evening.

The police said that his alarm had gone off. It had not. Was this intimidation? You bet.

We are paying a premium for a false sense of security. Our ignorance about the true character of our police department has put us all in peril.

Throw the bums out!

Like this comment
Posted by Jade Muncie
a resident of Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on Apr 4, 2011 at 9:01 pm

Those poor folks in Atherton. Their police department resembles a poorly bred pit bull - useless and dangerous.

Like this comment
Posted by John P Johns
a resident of another community
on Apr 4, 2011 at 10:41 pm

There is little doubt what the APOA's videotaping of City Council is legal. However the ethics of doing so are highly questionable.

What is so ironic about the APOA's videotaping of Council meetings and finance committee meetings is that they claim to be doing so in the interests of "transparency"

The irony is that, as Dr. Buckheit has pointed out in another posting, police officers in California have some of the most stringent protections on their own privacy in the country.

A police officer's number is unlisted, the license plates of unmarked sedans issued to them cannot be traced. The most crucial elements of police reports, those sections which describe their reasoning and recommendations are routinely redacted.

If anybody's actions should be scrutinized it is the actions of those who carry firearms and who have the authority to use deadly force. If anybody's actions should be scrutinized it is the actions of those who are empowered to enter a home or an office uninvited and to detain people unwillingly.

So here's the irony, the Atherton POA wants to put a spotlight (or a camera more correctly) on those who might speak out on issues concerning police spending, while benefiting from extraordinary measures to protect their own privacy.

The APOA should cease its videotaping immediately. It smacks of hypocrisy and arrogant.

Like this comment
Posted by laughing
a resident of Menlo Park: Felton Gables
on Apr 5, 2011 at 7:57 am

Everyone acts as though the "atherton police officers association" is some big powerful entity. It is a group of less then 15 people made up of a couple of dispatchers and some "mayberry" police department members. These is NOT some powerful union. This is a small do nothing- pick up newspapers -turn off sprinklers-vacation home check department. None of them have ever seen or dealt with "real" crime. Lets join the ranks of San Carlos and Half Moon Bay. Disband the police department and save MILLIONS of dollars! Recording the counsel sessions? Who cares? Lets look at the big picture people-stop all this litigation and unprofessional and most likely criminal behavior.

Like this comment
Posted by Simon Zelleski
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Apr 5, 2011 at 8:10 am

From what I have seen and from what I've heard from friends who live in Atherton, the Atherton Police bear witness to crime every day. Unfortunately the "perps" are their brother officers.

The Atherton Police Department has, for many years, engaged in the systematic and casual violation of civil rights under color of authority. It happens on every day. If you think the experience of Brian Bothun, Kathy McKeithen, Dr. Jon Buckheit and John Johns are fabricated or isolated, think again.

Every time an Atherton Police officer lets a resident go without being cited for a traffic violation while "throwing the book" at a non-resident for a similar infringement, the Atherton PD has broken the law.

Every time the Atherton PD pulls over a civilian because the officer doesn't like what this person posted on the Town square forum it is a crime.

There is a criminal element at work in Atherton. The crimes aren't violent in the physical sense, but the Atherton PD does violence to the civil liberties of its residents every single day.

The Atherton City Council should do two things, it should ask the FBI to conduct an investigation of its police department and it should issue a request for proposal to other governmental agencies for law enforcement.

Oh there's one other thing. Fire the Chief. He can't even get his own officers to obey the law.

Like this comment
Posted by Time for Change
a resident of Atherton: other
on Apr 5, 2011 at 1:40 pm

It is time to outsource the police department. Town council, the next move is up to you. Listen to the people and get this going.

Like this comment
Posted by LovesAtherton
a resident of Atherton: other
on Apr 6, 2011 at 4:55 pm

It seems the same 4 Atherton resident names continue to appear as disgruntled with the Police while there are more than 7000 residents who do not. Its mighty hard
to find credibility here although others not involved are entitled to opinions without substantial facts. I've lived here 29 years, received 3 speeding tickets on Middlefield Rd from Atherton Police. I deserved and paid them (my spouse as well). My family is very happy and proud to live in a safe community. We believe our safety is entirely attributed to an excellent professional police force.

Like this comment
Posted by Credibility
a resident of Atherton: other
on Apr 6, 2011 at 5:15 pm

# of people who speak out is not equal to # of people who have had problems. 7000 satisfied people does not mean a few people were not treated improperly. Your logic implies that the police who beat Rodney King, shot the BART person, etc. were acting properly so long as most people they came into contact with were okay with them.

Correct number to look it is are the number of incidents out of bounds or not compared to size of community and size of police force. It is.

Like this comment
Posted by Luke Stafford
a resident of Atherton: other
on Apr 6, 2011 at 6:34 pm

There are four people who have spoken out publicly against the police and under their own identities.

"Loving Atherton" may refer to them as disgruntled. I call them courageous.

I know of two others who have been harassed by the Atherton Police Department but have not filed complaints. Their reasons for doing so are that they both fear retaliation and neither of them has any confidence in the investigative process.

The Atherton PD seems to suffer from a certain kind of hubris. Because of the 97% approval rating they claim to have, the officers seem to feel as though they have license to trample on the rights of the other 3% who live and work in Town.

Rest assured, the several people who have spoken out against the Department are the tip of the iceberg.

Like this comment
Posted by embarrassed
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 7, 2011 at 7:14 am

The "97%" approval rating is not realsitic. When they send the forms to the selected residents of their choosing, this is how they come up with the number. With all the law suits that have been paid out over the last 15 years (and there are alot!!), that is the biggest red flag of all. These are not suits that were dismissed as nonsense or frivalous. These are legitimate lawsuits that the town wrote BIG checks for. For every person that demands the police department be taken over by the Sheriff or Menlo Park or who ever, there are a whole lot more people who agree but do not speak up. The town management is a huge embarrassment from the Mayor on down. The police department is incompetant at best and should be disbanded if nothing else, for fiscal responsibility.

Like this comment
Posted by Michael G. Stogner
a resident of another community
on Apr 7, 2011 at 7:37 am

Luke, I agree with you.

"Rest assured, the several people who have spoken out against the Department are the tip of the iceberg."

When you think about it for just a little bit it starts to sink in. Most people think it can't happen to them or it can't happen here. For those who have spoken out in the past and have paid for it, I say Thank You for trying.

Where else besides Atherton can Police Officers turn in false time cards and get away with it.
Where else besides Atherton can Police Officers add charges that never existed to a police report? Why would it take over 2 years to get rid of that officer?

Tell your neighbors about this, tell the elders I'm sure they do not know about this.

Best of luck to all the residents of Atherton.

Like this comment
Posted by johny
a resident of Atherton: other
on Apr 8, 2011 at 11:52 pm

I am just a resident that values APD's service and have no issues with them. Hope it stays like that, and further improves so that other residents of the town feel the same, but I would discount many comments by non-residents.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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