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Winant calls Atherton police probe of his mistreatment claims 'a travesty'

Original post made on Dec 7, 2017

Richard "Dick" Winant, a Stanford University researcher who claimed Atherton police mistreated him after he got lost on the Sharon Hills golf course at night and ended up in an Atherton backyard, says the department's report on his citizen's complaint is "a travesty."

Read the full story here Web Link posted Thursday, December 7, 2017, 6:10 PM

Comments (18)

Posted by Citizen
a resident of Atherton: other
on Dec 7, 2017 at 7:44 pm

Time for Sheriff to take over the police department. Since the last tax measure failed, time to get real city, and be fiscal smart. The police department must be the highest cost for their city government. Dave your town.


Posted by Brian
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Dec 7, 2017 at 8:34 pm

Brian is a registered user.

Maybe you should not go wandering around on private property at night and entering peoples yards. Then to top it off refusing to provide identification. I guess you are lucky you were not shot or attacked by a dog.


Posted by Let's cut the crap
a resident of Atherton: other
on Dec 7, 2017 at 9:05 pm

@Brian, yes, you're right. Winant did not behave perfectly. But there was no excuse for the sergeant keeping in him handcuffs until he apologized to him. There was no excuse for foul language. If the pre-requisite for police behaving properly is the people they come in contact with can't have any flaws, we wouldn't need police.

As for the complaint determination, so what else is new? In an environment in which police (or any group) gets to adjudicate themselves, that's pretty much a predestined result. That's why a community that wants a truly excellent police force would have a citizen board be reviewing and deciding these complaints.


Posted by Still Don't Get It
a resident of Atherton: other
on Dec 8, 2017 at 6:41 am

I still don't get it - a man, enters a resident's backyard, at night, with binoculars - the residents in the house are alerted and they call the police. The police respond, question the man - in their backyard, at night, with binoculars - he refuses to give identification, might have been a bit belligerent, and says he [portion removed] got lost - in the resident's backyard, at night, with binoculars - they apply a little police pressure on him and he relents to more details. AND WE BLAME THE RESPONSE OF THE POLICE.

Give me a break. Should they have called him a vulgar name? We'll never know - maybe it was justified. Was he belligerent? We'll never really know. Did they actually require him to apologize for his rude behavior before uncuffing him? We'll never know. Regardless, the police, responded to a complaint by a resident that there was a man, in their backyard, at night, with binoculars. That sounds like a peeping tom or a stalker to me. AND WE BLAME THE RESPONSE OF THE POLICE.

Apparently two of the three officers involved are no longer with the city - for whatever reason. If the PD can't say why they are actually gone [portion removed]. Again, we'll never know.

But - in this case, not knowing is perfectly fine. The Police responded to a complaint from a resident about a stalker or peeping tom in their backyard and when the Police arrived - they found him, detained him, questioned him and eventually let him go. To me - that's okay and THANK YOU Atherton Police for protecting my safety.


Posted by Let's cut the crap
a resident of Atherton: other
on Dec 8, 2017 at 8:10 am

@Still Don't Get It, it's certainly possible Winant was doing what he said he was doing. It's also possible he was peeping or stalking. As you like to say, "we'll never know." If he had been peeping or stalking, more blame then goes to the police for not keeping the cuffs on until he was professionally taken to county jail, as they should have made an arrest for that if there was any evidence to support it. So, I tend to think the accusations of peeping/stalking are being generated now to try to excuse the bad behavior of these police officers, not because there was any evidence at the time.

But in terms of the rough treatment he received, and I recall from the prior article that the police involved admitted to the rough language, that's unacceptable. He shouldn't have to apologize to them before cuffs coming off, because according to our law, that's not a valid reason to keep someone in handcuffs.

You seem to be okay with giving police the discretion to take the law into their own hands – at least a little bit – when dealing with people whom they believe deserve it. That's not a good idea, especially since you wouldn't like it if you were on the receiving end of it.

Also, if a few of the officers are no longer at APD, I also "suspect they were a problem". But that lends more credence to Winant's complaint, does it not?


Posted by SteveC
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Dec 9, 2017 at 1:23 pm

SteveC is a registered user.

Interesting. Sgt. leaves the department or was asked to leave while the getting was good. If the other officer who left he could still be interviewed for the investigation. If he is a bad apple, the new police agency will find out in time


Posted by pogo
a resident of Woodside: other
on Dec 10, 2017 at 6:49 am

pogo is a registered user.

Why would leaving a job prevent the police from questioning the suspected cop? This is an official complaint and legal matter. Bring him in. If the accused cop wants to invoke his fifth amendment rights, so be it. Don't say we couldn't question him because he left.

Charge him or don't but don't let a suspected bad cop thwart your investigation.


Posted by Let's cut the crap
a resident of another community
on Dec 10, 2017 at 9:52 am

Let's cut the crap is a registered user.

@pogo, I agree with you, but even if we pretended that Guarducci could not be interviewed after he left the department on June 1, note the date of Winant's complaint, which the article links to: March 17.

Obviously the police department could have interviewed Guarducci in the two-and-a-half months he was still there after Winant's complaint was filed.

This is more indication that how this complaint was treated is a sham, or as Mr. Winant put it, a travesty if you were the one affected by it.


Posted by Just the facts
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Dec 10, 2017 at 12:35 pm

Just the facts is a registered user.

Read the facts; dark, private backyard, with binoculars and uncooperative. In your adult life how many times have you seen this? I am 60 years old and have never experienced this, in the many towns and neighborhoods I have lived in. If your wife called you with these facts what would your first response be? Do not let him in the house, and call the police.

[Part removed. Please don't create hypothetical scenarios. Would such a person knock on the door to ask for assistance?]

Why should I care that Mr. Winant is a Stanford researcher? Does somehow place him above the law, or suspicion?

Everything about Mr. Winant's behavior and actions was unusual and warranted police action. It appears the arriving officers attempted to treat Mr. Winant with courtesy and respect. His lack of cooperation quickly escalated the situation. We expect officers to take control of such encounters, any other approach and you might as well send them all home and build the wall a little higher. Sounds to me like Mr. Winant's actions were suspicious and threatening from the start. I say good job Atherton PD, I'm glad to know you are there when needed.


Posted by Let's cut the crap
a resident of another community
on Dec 10, 2017 at 2:01 pm

Let's cut the crap is a registered user.

@Just the facts – you mean to tell me there was evidence Mr. Winant was looking into a bedroom window with binoculars but the Atherton police didn't arrest him? If so, why not? If so, why are you praising these officers instead of being disappointed they didn't arrest someone obviously committing a disturbing crime?

Like I said above, either these officers decided to go easy on Mr. Winant and give him a pass (which is just about the one thing everyone agrees did not happen – going easy) or the cops and their supporters are throwing mud at Winant after the fact to deflect the bad behavior of these officers.

Why wasn't Guarducci interviewed during the 2.5 months he was still an APD officer? Or even thereafter?

This whole thing stinks.


Posted by Just the facts
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Dec 10, 2017 at 2:29 pm

Just the facts is a registered user.

Presumably, if the officers had reason to belief Mr. Winant had been been peeping in windows they would have arrested him. They had sufficient reason to detain him, question him and confer with the family who called the police. After concluding they lacked probable cause to arrest him they released him from custody. If other calls were made to the police reporting a peeper skulking about I am sure the police would have pursued the matter and arrested Mr. Winant.
Mr. Winant, as a citizen of this community, has a duty to fully cooperate with those who are empowered to investigate reported crimes and suspicious activities. He did not not, and experienced the consequences. Perhaps Mr. Winant is accustomed to dealing with obsequious associates who he can bully with bluster and clever comments. We do not expect police officers to shrink from performing their duty simply because they encounter uncooperative persons.
Don't want to find yourself in handcuffs on the side of the road? Don't trespass onto private property, wander into someone's backyard wearing binoculars at night, and then refuse to identify yourself to responding officers called to the scene by people you frightened in their own home.


Posted by Cut the crap
a resident of another community
on Dec 10, 2017 at 2:51 pm

Cut the crap is a registered user.

"They had sufficient reason to detain him, question him and confer with the family who called the police."

Agreed.

"After concluding they lacked probable cause to arrest him they released him from custody."

Nope, they wouldn't release him until he apologized to them.

"Mr. Winant, as a citizen of this community, has a duty to fully cooperate with those who are empowered to investigate reported crimes and suspicious activities."

Nope. California has no "stop and identify statute." He's also absolutely protected from answering other police questions under the U.S. constitution. That's the law. I sense from your comments you probably disagree with it. Most other states do have the legal requirement that someone in Mr. Winant's position provide identification to police. California does not.

"Perhaps Mr. Winant is accustomed to dealing with obsequious associates who he can bully with bluster and clever comments."

Maybe. It more likely appears the officers involved like Guarducci are accustomed to bullying people they come into contact with if they don't bend to their will.

Now, I realize the general gist of your opinion is that he was involved in doing something suspicious and the police had every right to get tough with him when he didn't cooperate. But as the editor pointed out in your comment above, not only was there no evidence of peeping/stalking, the fact he knocked on the homeowner's door for help is not something a peeping Tom would customarily do. This seems much more likely to be a case in which the officers were affronted he offered resistance to their questioning, but that was unquestionably his legal right. If they didn't have grounds to arrest him, which clearly they did not, their proper response would have been to control their emotions and release him without compelling an apology and using abusive language.

On a different topic, doesn't it seem ridiculous that the Atherton policy of "officers should use body cams" wasn't clear enough to determine it was wrong for the officers to not use them? (Now it was changed to "must use body cams"). That's additional indicia that Winant's version of events is probably true, since if the cops didn't get out of line, but Winant did, they would have had every reason to keep the tape rolling/not delete it.


Posted by Just the facts
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Dec 10, 2017 at 3:32 pm

Just the facts is a registered user.

Sure, Mr. Winant could have remained silent. The officers could have then arrested Mr. Winant for trespassing. He was released because police lacked probable cause to hold him, see 849 (b) P.C. Do you really think Mr. Winant's release was contingent on delivering an apology? I simply do not believe his version on this point. Am I to believe they would still be standing there if Mr. Winant refused to apologize? Nonsense.
On its face his behavior and actions were suspicious. As I am sure you know, the police had every right to detain him, search him and place him in handcuffs while they evaluated circumstances related to the call for service. We would live in a more civil, peaceful society if people simply fulfilled their duty as a citizen to comply with reasonable, lawful orders from duly authorized peace officers.


Posted by Cut the crap
a resident of another community
on Dec 10, 2017 at 9:19 pm

Cut the crap is a registered user.

"Do you really think Mr. Winant's release was contingent on delivering an apology? I simply do not believe his version on this point."

It's fascinating to me how different people can look at the same situation so differently.

Earlier you said: "Why should I care that Mr. Winant is a Stanford researcher? Does somehow place him above the law, or suspicion?" Similarly, being a police officer doesn't place one above the law or suspicion. We all saw that last week when a police officer was sentenced to a 20 years in prison for murdering a man. His account of why he shot him was remarkably different than a citizen video that later surfaced.

In this case, when THREE police officers are obligated by policy to record the interaction, but not one does, it makes me think that the citizen rather than the officers should be given the benefit of the doubt in terms of what actually happened. I can't discern a rational motivation for Winant to fabricate the apology demand either. The department gave these officers body cameras and put a policy in place about recordings so no doubt would exist in circumstances like this. It protects them from false complaints. When they choose not to record, we should conclude there's a reason for this choice.

Let's add that according to the actual complaint disposition, the officers don't deny it. That's because in this case they didn't have to resort to denials because for whatever reason, they left (or at least two of them did) before the Atherton department got around to questioning them about the complaint, even though there was ample opportunity – months – to do so. That's simply not reasonable.

The totality of the circumstances (no videos, no interviews) doesn't inspire a lot of confidence in me about how either the Atherton officers or their supervisors handled the situation and the resulting complaint.


Posted by Dick Winant the subject of article
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Dec 16, 2017 at 10:25 am

Dick Winant the subject of article is a registered user.

Thank you Barbara,

I think that both your reports were excellent. In my opinion the police actions following the incident are nearly as derelict as their behavior during my detention. To quote you in reference to the turned off body cameras: "Commander Wade said although it is true that the incident was not recorded, at the time of the incident the department's policy said only that officers "should" record enforcement related contacts, but not that they "must" be recorded."

So "should" is evidently a neutral word; and I wonder whether when God said "Thou shalt not ..." well, I have to wonder if that language was strong enough.

But also from your article: 'The sustained allegation is that the officers did not file a report on the incident. ... 'Commander Wade's report says the department has this policy: "If an individual is restrained and released without an arrest, the office shall document the details of the detention and the need for handcuffs or other restraints."'

Not only did they not file a report, but the department delayed their response to my complaint for so long that two of the officers were evidently no longer available for questioning. I spoke to Sergeant Sherman Hall within several weeks of filing the complaint. He seems like a serious man to me. It seems he could have put pressure on to get some kind of report from the detaining officers. [Part removed. We don't know if this is true.] But Officer Barrera was still around for months after this. Officer Gomez is there even now. And apparently there is still no report despite that the allegation was sustained.

When I said that Commander Wade's report was a travesty, I meant in part that it was very incomplete. For example, in your earlier article, Sgt Hall acknowledged that the vulgar language was evidently used. But I guess he and Commander Wade don't talk. Otherwise, why was this behavior not addressed in Wade's report? It seems that in the absence of a report they simply don't have to address many of my complaints -- that is, they are "not sustained" because of "insufficient evidence" because no report was filed.

But thank you again. My one hope is that your articles and my comments will encourage more citizens to oppose police abuse and that police conduct will improve if more people object.

Best,

Dick Winant


Posted by Let's cut the crap
a resident of another community
on Dec 17, 2017 at 12:20 pm

Let's cut the crap is a registered user.

"In my opinion the police actions following the incident are nearly as derelict as their behavior during my detention."

@Mr. Winant – I disagree. The actions of the police management during the complaint investigation process are MORE derelict than the behavior during your intention because this type of whitewashing creates/furthers an environment of impunity and enablement.

My suggestion is you file complaints against Wade and Hall for not properly investigating your complaint. (By the way, Hall was not your friend during this process, notwithstanding any demeanor of seriousness he evinced). Not interviewing the involved officers for months? Ridiculous!!

@The Almanac – deleting statements of the victim? "[Part removed. We don't know if this is true.]" Yet, allowing others to cast aspersions on his character (peeping) at the same time that we know are very unlikely true? Is that fair?


Posted by Dick Winant the subject of article
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Dec 17, 2017 at 12:32 pm

Dick Winant the subject of article is a registered user.

@Let's cut the crap --
Thanks for your intelligent and responsible remarks.
One clarification: the reason the editor cut a brief portion of my post was that I unintentionally made a statement that I do not know to be true. Please let me provide an equivalent substitution. I should have said "Sergeant Guarducci was absent from the force at this time".


Posted by Menlo Voter.
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Dec 17, 2017 at 7:32 pm

Menlo Voter. is a registered user.

[Part removed.] Mr Winant. If you had simply acted like an honest citizen and provided your ID [part removed] would have, none of this would have happened. [part removed.] Guess what? The police see uncooperative jerks on a daily basis and they're usually uncooperative for a reason. Usually not good. [part removed.] Frankly, I'm surprised they didn't book you for trespassing and resisting and delaying an officer (148(a)(1)). I would have. You were lucky all they did is ask you for an apology. I wouldn't have. I'd have booked you.

[Part removed.] ... realize the police were DOING THEIR JOB [part removed]. I'm sure you won't get it, but you should be thankful you didn't run into cops in a major city. They wouldn't have wasted their time messing with you. They would have cuffed you, booked you and been done with it. I say that as one that spent ten years in law enforcement in a major city.


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