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Atherton Police Union: You're on Candid Camera!

Original post made by Allen Funt, Atherton: other, on Mar 29, 2011

The Atherton police union has recently started video taping any town meeting in which police issues are mentioned. Their press release:

March 19, 2011

The Atherton Police Officers Association (APOA) is pleased to announce its broadcasting of select Town Meetings.

Our purpose is twofold:

Our members are unable to attend all of the meetings; the videos allow us to better understand and participate in the decisions made by the Town.

Atherton residents will have better access to their Government decision makers. Increased transparency and resident participation are worthy side benefits of our investment.

The broadcasts can be found on our YouTube channel:

Web Link

*********************************************************************************

Look at their YouTube channel. In addition to taping the meeting, they send in highly charged pro-police supporters, such as the March 7 finance committee meeting in which an unidentified woman got into verbal fisticuffs with Greg Conlon, demanding all the parcel tax go to the police (road improvements being unimportant), and that they would "help the council" with police expenses if they dared to cut them.

According to Mayor Jim Dobbie, "I just don't think it's appropriate...I think some members of the public and the Finance Committee thought it was their way of saying you better do what we want you to do."

As the Atherton budget pie gets smaller, the cops will need a larger and larger slice of that smaller pie to maintain their status quo without any salary or benefit concessions that have been commonplace in all other communities in California. Now they have carved out 60% of the parcel tax instead of the previous 50%.

What are your thoughts on this videotaping? Is it strong arming, or a service to the residents of Atherton?

Would Atherton residents benefit from increased transparency in areas cops don't want us to know about, such as salary negotiations, complaint investigations, and other goings on behind the blue wall of silence? Or is the only thing we need to know about what goes on at the meetings we have full access to anyway, in which decisions are made based on the assimilation of materials the police would prefer we don't have access to?

You be the judge...and you'd better support law enforcement. After all, you're on Candid Camera.

Comments (20)

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Posted by Bill
a resident of Atherton: West of Alameda
on Mar 29, 2011 at 9:04 am

Do the meeting participants get to know in advance they are being taped, or did they find out after the fact? TO me that is a key difference, but even if permission has been obtained this is not something I've heard about elsewhere as the ongoing saga of public sector workers needing to make salary concessions plays out.


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Posted by peter carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Mar 29, 2011 at 10:43 am

peter carpenter is a registered user.

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.


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Posted by POGO
a resident of Woodside: other
on Mar 29, 2011 at 3:01 pm

Mr. Carpenter said "...the (Atherton) police union would be wise to consider the public's perception of their action(s)..."

That could be one of the more ironic comments ever made on this website. I've rarely seen an organization with such a tin ear.

If only, Mr. Carpenter!


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Posted by Mrs. L
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Mar 30, 2011 at 9:15 am

The police officers should stop this! This has been a community that has been very generous with its police officers and Town employees in general. No aggressive actions are needed to be treated more than fairly. The police will surely need to make some salary and benefit cuts since this is happening everywhere, but I am sure it will be done in a fair way for all involved. I simply don't believe they could be treated better anywhere else, and they should be behaving accordingly.


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Posted by Nope
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Mar 30, 2011 at 9:52 am

Cops can come to our meetings, videotape our meetings, and even speak at our meetings (I'm sure we're not welcome at theirs), but let's face it: the only ones with the moral right to influence how taxpayer money gets spent in Atherton are the Atherton taxpayers themselves.

I think Jim Dobbie has lost control of his employees, at least the police ones who are more than 50% of the budget, and should consider turning the reigns back over to Kathy McKeithen for the remainder of the year. We need a firm and experienced hand to solve these fiscal issues. Dobbie has talked a big game, but when push comes to shove, I haven't seen any fiscal reforms or managerial reforms.


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Posted by George Mason
a resident of Atherton: other
on Mar 30, 2011 at 10:29 pm

The individual who has lost control is Mike Guerra.

Videotaping City Council meetings would have been unthinkable under past chiefs.

The Atherton POA's action to videotape meetings is unnecessary and ill advised. It is unnecessary because audio tape recordings of the meetings can be purchased from the City Clerk.

The videotaping of City Council is ill advised because it brings to the conscious level the breakdown in trust that has occurred recently. There was a time when Police Officers in this town trusted the political process and by extension the Town's residents. Alas such is no longer the case.

Paradoxically, in addition to being a display of the APOA's insecurity it is also a sign of arrogance. Either the APOA doesn't think the residents of this town who so value their privacy would mind having their likeness displayed on the internet or they don't care.

I firmly believe Guerra should be replaced. For if the Town doesn't dump this incompetent chief, the Town just may dump its highly cherished police department.


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Posted by Burt Marksman
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Mar 31, 2011 at 6:08 pm

This kind of intimidation tactic has no place in our Town. It may be legal but it is most certainly unethical.


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Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Mar 31, 2011 at 7:03 pm

Seems the citizens of Atherton may finally be waking up to the fact they have a problem with their police department.


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Posted by Thomas
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Mar 31, 2011 at 10:21 pm

While I agree with "George Mason" on his assessment of the town cameras being placed by the APD, I am bewildered why there seems to be no resentment of town council members that clearly are the APD'S enablers if there has indeed been any misconduct.

Police misconduct is a fact of life and it's the responsibility of the town council to provide oversight if they want to restore trust. As I am aware that the council members visit these blogs, I would invite them to review developments in Houston over recent police misconduct and the many articles posted on the web..."Houston Announces New Panels to Review Police". Houston's mayor not only took immediate action by setting up a truly independent investigation but also set up a facebook page inviting constituents to post their viewpoints.

After having viewed all the tapes and getting past the minutia of errant garbage cans that are put out either too early or put away too late as well as the proliferation of chicken coops, I will say that the tapes provide significant insight into each council member. Mr. Widmer, the newest council member certainly seems to me to truly ask the right questions and operate with no agenda other than the best interests of the town. No surprise now why he received more votes than either incumbent Carlson or Dobbie. No doubt in my mind he will be mayor at some point if he does not grow tired of having to wade through velcro with his fellow council members.

While I'm not certain whether attendees of the meeting were fully aware they were being taped, I did find Mr. Buckheit's statements honorable as he quite regularly looked over to make eye contact with Chief Guerra. I might also let the chief know that if it is his desire to continue publishing these tapes, he might want to consider omitting sensitive data such as dates when people will be out of town. The town doesn't need another lawsuit by one of it's own residents.


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Posted by Michael G. Stogner
a resident of another community
on Apr 1, 2011 at 7:28 am

Atherton came close awhile back might be time to look at it again.

Independent Police Oversight Committee appointed by the Mayor. Notice how fast action took place after the complaint.

Web Link

I support a Citizens Independent Oversight Committee for the County.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 1, 2011 at 7:36 am

Thomas states:"I am bewildered why there seems to be no resentment of town council members that clearly are the APD'S enablers if there has indeed been any misconduct."

Reread the article - "According to Mayor Jim Dobbie, "I just don't think it's appropriate...I think some members of the public and the Finance Committee thought it was their way of saying you better do what we want you to do.""

Thomas states:"As I am aware that the council members visit these blogs," Unfortunately they do not read these blogs primarily because they are so often subjected to inappropriate personal attacks by anonymos posters in this forum.


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Posted by Kelly
a resident of Atherton: other
on Apr 1, 2011 at 8:18 am

I agree with everything Thomas has said except for his assessment of police misconduct as still an open question ("if there has indeed been"). As he said, it is a fact of life and there has certainly been enough published over the past several years to indiciate it is also alive and well in Atherton.

Where Peter Carpenter is wrong is that just because Jim Dobbie has criticized this childish stunt of recording meetings, it does not mean he has taken the necessary steps to contain the misconduct like the mayor of Houston has.

I believe the council members view the current situation with the police as: first, most residents seem to have good experiences with the police, not bad, second, the "legacy" of Mr. Buckheit may well be that they simply assume a conversation has taken place between Guerra and the misbehaving officers he has protected along the lines of "we're going to cover for you this time, but in the future if you so much as..." and the problem is self-correcting.

That is, until next time. I am less optimistic than they seem to be that the APD has learned its lesson. There may be a lot of heat now, but it will die down and without fundamental policies in place it will recur since this leadership has sent the loud and clear message to the police officers that misconduct directed against co-workers (Johns, Henderson) will be tolerated, and even misconduct directed against a resident of Atherton will be tolerated.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 1, 2011 at 8:29 am

Kelly states:"Where Peter Carpenter is wrong is that just because Jim Dobbie has criticized this childish stunt of recording meetings, it does not mean he has taken the necessary steps to contain the misconduct like the mayor of Houston has."

Facts are important - I never said that Dobbie has or has not take steps to deal with the alleged misconduct issue.

As I have stated publicly to the Council and frequently on this forum Atherton needs a Citizen's Police Oversight Committee to establish policies which will prevent police misconduct and abuse. And that will only happen if a lot of citizens push for such a committee - not as a result on anything posted on this forum. Perhaps the police taping will stimulate citizen to actually do something.


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Posted by Thomas
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Apr 2, 2011 at 11:44 pm

Kelly..I am hesitant to agree with you on what I feel is alleged police misconduct until there has been a truly independent investigation. Let's remember the reason why the police were originally dispatched to Mr. Buckheit's house. That said, I do agree with your other statements and what seems to be a paralysis by the town council to launch an independent investigation. Certainly, if Chief Guerra was convinced there was no wrongdoing on the part of his officers, he should have no objection to who should be responsible for conducting the investigation.

While I also commend Mr. Danielson for initiating an independent investigation, I do feel it was with the consent of the town council that finally realized this issue was not going to go away. I would also hope that the initiation of this investigation has it roots with Mr.Buckheit's lawsuit rather than Mr. Johns complaint. It is my opinion that when Mr. Johns settled his lawsuit with the city a year ago his subsequent actions demonstrated bad faith. Why has it taken Mr. Johns a year to file this citizen's complaint, especially given his opinions on this forum? Call me old school but it has the same appearance of the infamous Buckheit, Sweide, Johns confrontation at town hall that they subsequently posted on You Tube. I felt the confrontation and publication rather juvenile and unsophisticated.

In responding to Mr. Carpenter, it's absurd to think Atherton's council members do not read these blogs because of personal attacks from anonymous posters. While they may not always do the right thing, they're not thin-skinned. I have also read previous postings on this forum by council members McKeithen, Lewis and Marsala so you're out of gas on that one despite your many pleas to The Almanac and Palo Alto Online to refuse to post anonymous comments on their forums.

Furthermore and having previously called you out on this once before, I see no evidence, other than your February 2010 post (over a year ago) that you have "frequently on this forum" spoken about the need for a police oversight committee. I also disagree with your statement that postings on this forum have no impact on perspective and that "citizens need to push for such a committee". Your campaign to convict Ms. Fergusson of a felony for violating a 57 year old law that has never once been prosecuted was by in large behind a keyboard. As I also said before, if you had spent half as much time trying to get the Atherton Town Council to form a police oversight committee rather than time spent on trying to put Ms. Fergusson behind bars, Atherton would not just be starting to launch an independent investigation. In my opinion, you choose to pick your battles and the transparency in government that you always talk about is just your shtick.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 3, 2011 at 6:34 am

Thomas - please be so kind as to provide the date and times of the latest postings by each of the five council members. What other evidence do you have that the council members read this forum? Most of them have told me that they do not.

There are 12 posting on this forum by me regarding the police oversight issue.

My Cure and Correct action regarding Brown Act violations by one or more of the Menlo Park council members was, as required by law, conducted entirely between myself, the City of Menlo Park and the DA. While there was lots of posting by lots of people on this issue on this forum none of those people were the legally designated decision makers.

As to how I spend my time your, opinions lack a factual basis - for example, I have spent more time cumulatively as a citizen member of the Atherton Town Attorney selection committee than I have spent posting on this forum - and you????


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Posted by Observer
a resident of Atherton: other
on Apr 3, 2011 at 9:08 am

Thomas,

Your comments are so right on!! Thanks from many of us who read but don't comment on this forum. It was a topic of discussion, however, yesterday in downtown Menlo Park and the votes were all that you are correct!!


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Posted by John P Johns
a resident of another community
on Apr 3, 2011 at 12:03 pm

"Thomas" has chosen to post in a manner that renders it impossible to ascertain his identity. As such his postings arguably fall into the category of anonymous postings.

As Mr. Carpenter has noted on many occasions anonymous postings should be taken with a grain of salt because, by the act of posting anonymously, a poster refuses to take responsibility for what they are writing.

That said, I take issue with the inferences and characterizations that "Thomas" makes so slyly. What is implied by "Thomas" in his post smacks of character assassination.

In response to "Thomas" references to the "infamous" video and his accusation of my acting in "bad faith". I will remind "Thomas" that Mr. Buckheit has already made it clear why he was videotaping the incident he refers to. Mr. Buckheit wanted to have a record of what actually transpired so that the Police would not abuse their power and then be able to lie about it after the fact with impunity.

Given Mr. Buckheit's past experience and my own, his fear the Police would use violence or intimidation during our visit and get away with it was justified.

"Thomas" has also accused me of "bad faith". In this regard, "Thomas" is being disingenuous at best. He is has demonstrated to be a close observer of what is posted here. I have made it clear in a previous posting that I did not agree to hold Town official harmless for past criminal acts. Even if I had tried to, such an agreement would not be binding because it would be in violation the publics interest.

Finally, there is one simple reason why I continue to seek the seven of Atherton's current and former law enforcement officers to be held accountable for their criminal conduct is simple.

Never again should a finance director who objects to a misuse of public funds be subject to harassment by those who are sworn to defend and to uphold the law.

I will not rest until those who so badly abused the public trust are held accountable.

It's that simple Mr. "Thomas".


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Posted by outraged resident
a resident of Atherton: Lloyden Park
on Apr 4, 2011 at 10:19 am

This is Atherton. We do not live in a police state. The City Council should demand Guerra's resignation immediately. He's lost control over his department.

The Atherton POA knows it can do whatever it darn well pleases. Why wouldn't they after two consecutive "investigations" have found no wrongdoing.


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Posted by Thinker
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Apr 4, 2011 at 11:33 am

Here is idea...follow the trend. San Carlos and Half Moon Bay disbanded their police departments to SAVE MONEY and get rid of all the Litigation. Hello Atherton Counsel? Maybe you should do the same...filming issue ended, future law suits prevented and MILLIONS saved for worthy projects...food for thought...


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Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Apr 4, 2011 at 7:27 pm

Outraged:

Guerra never had control of his department. Witness the bogus "investigations" he had done. He can't be in control, he is part of the problem. He is covering for corrupt officers. He is doing this because he wants no one to know he has no control of his department. If it becomes so blatantly obvious that no one can ignore that he has no control, he will lose his job. This is what happens when you put an incompetant manager in control. It's also waht happens when you expect your police department to act like a private security force.

My advice to those who live in Atherton: either outsource your police services and hire private security to pick up your newspapers or plan on spending a lot more money on lawsuits necessitated by corrupt cops and incompetant administrators. Or, if you really must have your own police department, start over. Fire everyone and hire a new police force AND HAVE YOUR NEWSPAPERS AND THE MIRIAD OTHER B.S. THINGS YOU HAVE YOUR POLICE DEPARTMENT DOING DONE BY SECURITY GUARDS. What you have now is the result of treating your police department as a private security force.


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