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Search is on for Atherton's Police Lieutenant

Original post made by Do as I say, not as I do, Atherton: West Atherton, on Jan 8, 2010

A nationwide search is being conducted for the Atherton Police Lieutenant position.

After Mike Guerra was promoted by Jerry Gruber with the rationale that no search or process is required when a qualified individual already exists in the department, newly minted Chief Mike Guerra is sending the clear message to his rank and file that none of them is qualified to be lieutenant.

I for one can't believe that is true.

Comments (30)

Posted by Andrea Gemmet
Almanac staff writer
on Jan 8, 2010 at 10:21 am

Andrea Gemmet is a registered user.

According to Chief Mike Guerra, it's only a national search in that a free ad was placed in CalOps announcing that applications for the position would be accepted through Dec. 28. There are three internal candidates among the applicants, who will be interviewed later this month, he said.

Placing an ad is standard procedure, and no recruiting firm was hired, Chief Guerra said.

Posted by Do as I say, not as I do
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Jan 8, 2010 at 10:26 am

Really? Placing an ad is standard procedure? Was one placed for the police chief position when Nielsen retired?

Posted by Don H.
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jan 8, 2010 at 9:49 pm

I find this lack of support for Atherton's finest to be very troubling. If picking from within was good enough for the top position, it's certainly good enough for the people under the new chief. The other message on "Editorial: Managing the Atherton news" talked about how many lawsuits there were from the Atherton police department. I'm a long time resident and I don't care how many lawsuits there are, we need the Atherton police, and these officers must be motivated to continue giving their all to the community. Don't criticize them until you've walked a mile in their shoes! The fact the former officer Pilar had to fight to get the money she deserved for sexual harassment was surely a demotivating factor as well. The town should have compensated her without her needing to file a lawsuit, and since she's a police officer, it all should have stayed totally confidential. There are many good officers who can be fine lieutenants, especially the K-9 officer who is simply wonderful with his dog.

Posted by tuff love
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Jan 9, 2010 at 12:08 am

To: Don H.
[Portion removed] Why would you "Not care how many lawsuits there are out of the Police Dept"--or what they might reflect about a systemic problem with officer's moral that deserves a much BETTER FIX than endless cash settlement pay outs can ever provide for them-nor can the town afford. IF you really do care about the Dept. then you need to acknowledge the very clear signals they have been sending------ Its our fault as citizens really -that they have gotten so off track--for not giving them better leadership or holding them to better account.

Posted by Surreal
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Jan 9, 2010 at 8:33 am

Hahaha. Let's get Don's picture on the posters for the next parcel tax! On a more serious note, the cash payouts address symptoms, not problems, so they merely beget more cash payouts. For example, the "correction" for the Pilar Buckley situation should have been to fire the person doing the "harassing" (and probably also firing her), not paying her money (or at least the money should not have been used as a substitute). The next female employee to cross this guy's path with the same cunning personality as Pilar will just take the same page from that playbook (and have a better case than Pilar, claiming the correction should have been made once and for all with the Pilar situation).

Regarding the number of lawsuits associated with the police department, it's obviously out of control. Instead of picking insiders for top positions, we should either be disbanding the department or getting leadership from outside and perhaps give one more chance to get this department functioning normally before shuttering it. As to the suggestion to make the K-9 guy the lieutenant, there was a thread (that the Almanac deleted) indicating there are issues with this officer, probably after the cops threatened them that any "issues" with cops are confidential (Don seems to have drank this cool aid also) and cannot be discussed. In my view, if this is true, it's just another indication of the problem. The emperor has no clothes and it's time to admit this. As a community we have the right to discuss problems with our police department along with the good things about it. This is America after all.

Posted by anonymous
a resident of Atherton: Lloyden Park
on Jan 9, 2010 at 4:26 pm

The Atherton Police Department is dirty. It will take men with far more courage than Guerra and Gruber can muster to clean it up.

Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jan 9, 2010 at 4:34 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

In my opinion the citizen jury on the Atherton Police Department is still out. What is needed is much more transparency in the Department's appointments and actions and much greater citizen involvement in oversight. In a democracy we get exactly the kind of government that we deserve and given the incredibly small turnout of citizens for Town Council meetings and in parcel tax election I suspect that we are getting exactly what we deserve.

How many citizens do you think will show up for the Town Council's six hour Study Session on Monday?

Posted by Candle Lighter
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Jan 9, 2010 at 4:49 pm

Peter, the citizen jury on the police department is not still out. It doesn't exist. Before the parcel tax passed, I advocated implementing a citizen police review board with a chair who would be the police commissioner of Atherton. This would be a first important step in gaining the transparency that would go a long way to solving many of the problems. Sunlight is a wonderful disinfectant.

Posted by Lulu
a resident of Atherton: other
on Jan 9, 2010 at 7:30 pm

Dear Almanac--before you delete this would you at least check ?? Its
Glen Neilson and D.A. Steve Wagstaffe are on each others top 10 best friends list on
Face Book---so don't expect much unbiased awareness of the situation or interest in correction to come from the county level-- this may explain a lot actually.....

Posted by Michael Stogner
a resident of another community
on Jan 11, 2010 at 8:59 am


I saw the Facebook top ten friends of Steve Wagstaffe several weeks ago and you are correct.
Also Wagstaffe and Carlos Bolanos Under-Sheriff are friends.

Posted by WHOA
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Jan 11, 2010 at 10:44 am

This news about the Wagstaffe/Nielsen friendship explains a lot. Can it explain why the county's React Task Force is housed within the Atherton police department? The council is meeting today to discuss the new $20M building that is required to house the police department. Why are we paying to house a react task force in the Atherton police department? Isn't it better off (both facility wise, and conflict of interest wise) being housed in a county building?

Posted by Michael G. Stogner
a resident of another community
on Jan 11, 2010 at 4:44 pm

You bring up a good point about REACT Task Force, most people in San Mateo County have never heard of this organization, don't know what it does, or how it does it, and I am confident most residents of Atherton didn't realize it is based out of the Atherton Police Department. It is a multi jurisdictional law enforcement team. San Mateo County has 23 law enforcement teams, notice only a couple are included in REACT according to this site.

Web Link

Posted by no thanks
a resident of Atherton: other
on Jan 11, 2010 at 6:35 pm

Is REACT Task force what justified Atherton getting that big fancy "Command" SUV vehicle a few months ago--it looks like a good 100,000 worth of equipment.
The whole police getting too big for this tiny town--and soon they are going to want a new facility so that they can outgrow that as well.
If they don't fit where they are now, maybe its a good thing--or the only thing that will stop them from growing and growing.
APOA apparently has plenty of friends up at the county so why not
Send REACT back to county and let them build them a new headquarters.

Posted by watchful one
a resident of Atherton: Lloyden Park
on Jan 11, 2010 at 9:00 pm

I was speaking with a well connected town employee.

The information I gleaned should clear up some misconceptions while perhaps raising some eyebrows.

REACT is a Santa Clara County District Attorney Task force, it is not operated under the auspices of the San Mateo County District Attorney, Sheriff or any other San Mateo County law enforcement agency.

REACT does not bear the full cost of the Atherton police officer assigned, only about half the cost.

The function REACT is primarily surveilance, including installing remotely operated and remotely monitored video cameras (and presumably highly sensitive audio receivers in any public right of way and directed at any target within line of sight and sound. Hence the mission of REACT is not passive as the name would imply it is very active.

This all sounds pretty Orwellian, yes. However it comes from a reliable source.

So the question for Athertonians is whether or not they should pay for resources assigned outside of the County and whether the residents of Atherton should subject themselves to the kind of highly intrusive intelligence gathering capability that this highly secretive organization has at its disposal.

Posted by Candle Lighter
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Jan 11, 2010 at 9:37 pm

Why are Atherton residents paying ANYTHING for this task force, 50% of a police officer, building space, etc.? It's truly amazing. This type of high tech surveillance is so far removed from the function the Atherton police department is supposed to be performing.

Posted by Ed
a resident of Atherton: other
on Jan 11, 2010 at 9:45 pm

No wonder is been impossible to rein in the police dept.--they can listen to all closed session deliberations from next door--or anyplace else actually

Posted by Less is More
a resident of Atherton: other
on Jan 12, 2010 at 7:22 am

I understand that at yesterdays Council Study Session the new police chief had suggested that he could arrange for some internal police audit authority to come in to determine if the department could save money by growing Larger to include other small town dispatch capacities INTO ours by consolidation. No Thank you--I would prefer to see the entire Department audited by an outside third party for an efficient system that may include farming our dispatch OUT to the county or a larger town.
You have all heard by now of the "96% police approval rating survey sent TO SOME but not all residences............Time now for Sherlock Holmes and a 97% Solution
All Bureaucracy will only continue to grow if left unchecked--

Posted by Michael G. Stogner
a resident of another community
on Jan 12, 2010 at 8:19 am

Dear Watchful One, This is a current list of the agencies involved in R.E.A.C.T. Task Force
Alameda County District Attorney's Office

, California Attorney General
California Department of Motor Vehicles ~ Investigations 

California Highway Patrol

I.C.E. ~Department of Homeland Security  Immigration and Customs Enforcement

Federal Bureau of Investigations, 

Fremont Police Department

, Internal Revenue Service ~ Criminal Investigations 
Millbrae Police Department, 

Pacifica Police Department, 

San Francisco District Attorney's Office, 

San Jose Police Department, 

San Mateo County District Attorney's Office

San Mateo County Sheriff's Office,  

Santa Clara County District Attorney's Office

Santa Clara County Sheriff's Office

, United States Secret Service

I hope this clears up any questions, this information is on the web link I posted earlier.

Also as I stated before most of San Mateo County Law Enforcement is not listed. Example Atherton Police Department, Menlo Park Police Department, San Carlos Police Department etc.

Posted by please share
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Jan 12, 2010 at 6:49 pm

They must pick up some pretty good stock tips from the ethers around here.....

Posted by Candle Lighter
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Jan 15, 2010 at 11:48 pm

My prediction: officers recently censured by a judge will be promoted as part of this next wave of upward moves from sergeant to lieutenant and officer to sergeant. Why not? It would be a perfectly acceptable cognitive dissonance.

Posted by WOW
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Jan 16, 2010 at 12:19 am

I'm laughing at the previous comment because I have noticed the many occasions that Atherton officials have reacted to scandal and incompetence by rewarding failure with raises or promotion---The perfect way to avoid admission of a problem that might be too inconvenient or taxing to fix. Pretend it's wonderful!!!!
On this theme I notice that one of the officers involved in the false arrest law suit is being promoted to detective on next week council agenda.
Classic Atherton
Maybe I'll start attending meetings for the entertainment value.

Posted by Candle Lighter
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Jan 18, 2010 at 12:58 am

If there is any doubt about the legitimacy of the concerns raised by posters in this thread about friendships between Stephen Wagstaffe (currently deputy D.A., and now running for the D.A. position itself) and the Atherton police chief, the following article in the San Jose Mercury News, "Battle for Police Endorsement", is illuminating:

Web Link

Herein you can read how important police endorsements are for candidates for district attorney, and how the San Jose police union may withhold its endorsement for a candidate since he believes the public should be given information about situations in which police officers kill suspects. The police unions insist upon closed grand juries. As an aside, it seems like a truly indefensible (and disgusting) position; that is, fallout to the police officer from the possibility of a suspect dying due to improper use of force by the police officer is outweighed by the police officer's self-professed right to privacy.

Anyway, this illustrates at least that the D.A. does need police endorsements in order to get his or her job. What he or she needs to do in order to get them is up to your own common sense, but at least in my opinion certainly does not involve the D.A. taking a hard stance on improper conduct of police officers.

Posted by skeeters
a resident of another community
on Jan 18, 2010 at 9:30 am

To all of you that have listed incorrect information: Let me state the facts: REACT: This agency is NOT housed at Atherton Police Dept. Their office is in Redwood City and employs several agents from various law enforcement agencies in San Mateo & Santa Clara counties. The agents are provided by these departments, only if agency staffing level is allowed. These agents are only chosen after a selection process is completed. Atherton Police Dept currently DOES NOT have any agent at REACT task force since staffing levels are at a minimum.
Try to get the facts correct before submitting your comments!

Posted by Candle Lighter
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Jan 18, 2010 at 10:39 am

Skeeters, your use of the word "currently" may indicate this is still an issue worthy of discussion and debate. Historically, the information described in this thread has been correct. I also understand that since the parcel tax was passed, Atherton P.D. is working to increase staffing levels and has just hired another full-time police officer by moving him from reserve to full-time status. If the plan is to resume React activities as soon as staffing levels return to "normal", the community should weigh in on whether or not we find that to be to our benefit or detriment.

Posted by straight scoop
a resident of Atherton: other
on Jan 18, 2010 at 11:20 am

Skeeters is right
REACT is not housed in Atherton
Atherton has no officers currently assigned to San Mateo County REACT

Skeeters is wrong:
Atherton does have an officer assigned to REACT. Office Sherman Hall is assigned to the Santa Clara County REACT task force and has been assigned to the Santa Clara County Task force for several years.

Skeeters comments are irrelevant:
Skeeters fails to address the points made by Watchful One, that REACT has morphed into an organization that Big Brother would be proud of, actively engaged in covert intelligence gathering in violation of an Athertonian\'s reasonable expectation of privacy.

[Portion removed]

Posted by michael G. Stogner
a resident of another community
on Jan 18, 2010 at 1:27 pm

Candle Lighter,
Good point about SJ DA needing and wanting Police endorsements.

Steve Wagstaffe doesn't have that problem, He is running unopposed. We the voters have no option at this time. I have posted at another newspaper blog that I think James P. Fox should fire him if he doesn't resign. Also if Fox refuses than the Board of Supervisors should investigate based on Higher Court over turning a murder conviction because of his racial motivation and his involvement in the America's Most Wanted show featuring Wagstaffe. Victor Willis an African American who lived in San Mateo County and failed to appear at Drug Court.
Web Link

Today is an appropriate day for this conversation.

Posted by Michael G. Stogner
a resident of another community
on Jan 18, 2010 at 1:31 pm

Web Link

This article kind of plays it a little. Steve says nobody questions his integrity.

Posted by skeeters
a resident of another community
on Jan 18, 2010 at 7:56 pm

To Scooter: "Officer" Sherman Hall is no longer assigned to REACT...he has been promoted to the rank of Sgt. and is now the "Detective Sgt" Atherton does not have anyone assigned to the REACT task force. As far as hiring the reserve officer to full-time officer...the department had an officer opening, and hiring this well-seasoned, military-experienced person is an asset to the department. The department has too many young officers, and many seasoned officers wil be retiring in the near future. Hopefully the current administration will not assign the officers to task forces unless the patrol staffing levels are at the current levels (one Sgt, two officers). Let's hope that the newly hired or promoted Lt. will continue this.

Posted by Candle Lighter
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Jan 18, 2010 at 9:20 pm

Skeeters, thanks for the information about many senior officers coming up for retirement and the APD needing to hire a new wave of officers.

This is the perfect opportunity for Atherton to create new pension policies as many other cities are doing now. We can no longer afford 90% pensions for public servants from age 50 for the rest of their life.

I hope the council can implement this reform.

Posted by e.grimley
a resident of Atherton: West of Alameda
on Jan 19, 2010 at 9:49 am

I wish I had found this forum is most entertaining.
Don H....what are you smoking????

Surreal...although going to the outside is a good point, it is a shame it has come to this. Atherton's police department was highly regarded in the 60's, 70's & 80's - not only by its residents, but by the law enforcement community as well. Enter City Manager Guluzy, Chief Cader (the first Chief from the outside), & their friends on the council in the 90's.....

Peter...with a minor exception, you hit the nail on the head. "....much greater citizen involvement...." However, the transparency needs to come from the Town Council first...everything else (with proper leadership) should fall into place. Move with caution when it comes to commissions and police commissioners as Candle Lighter suggests. More often than not, they do more harm than good.

Thanks for reading (listening)...opinions aside, at least you are all taking the time! Bravo!

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