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Residents getting nervous over outsourcing

Original post made on Nov 24, 2010

In what could be a sign of things to come if Atherton's elected officials decide to outsource police services, a number of Atherton residents attended an early morning meeting of the City Council and town's Finance Committee on Nov. 18 to hear a presentation on another city's experiences in turning over police operations to the county Sheriff's Office.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, November 24, 2010, 7:16 AM

Comments (32)

Posted by Cass Apple
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Nov 24, 2010 at 1:36 pm

I am not in favor of outsourcing patrolmen, but I would like those investigating cost reductions to look at the long term cost of the, to my mind, unjustified public service pension programs. This not only affects Atherton but every other city on the Peninsula. Menlo Park is a little ahead of us, but every city, including Atherton, that takes action will help the others address this issue. I think Atherton owes it to our taxpayers, and to our fellow cities, to take some leadership on this significant problem.

Posted by Space Cadet
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Nov 24, 2010 at 2:02 pm

Anyone who has had interaction with Atherton's Finest, knows they are not so fine. They are reluctant to "interfere" by enforcing codes, they argue with the homeowner insted of the perpetrator of minor theft, and they are so incapable of handling serious crime that other "reinforcements" must be called when anything more serious than a domestic dispute happens. And lately we all learned how well they handle even that! I'm highly in favor of outsourcing our police work as have Woodside, Portola Valley and San Carlos with great success. More than half our town budget (read taxpayers' money) goes to those guys who just cruise around and do nothing. Indeed, this outsourcing topic should come to a vote of the Atherton citizens after all the evidence is on the table, and soon.

Posted by frightening prospect
a resident of Atherton: West of Alameda
on Nov 24, 2010 at 4:30 pm

God forbid we should lose our police department. God forbid cases of elder abuse actually get investigated.

God forbid that law enforcement, rather than the Mayor, intervene when a vulnerable, wealthy widow is preyed upon by an interloper.

I will begin to trust our police department when it loses its carefully guarded monopoly and when its closely guarded secrets are daylighted.

We residents have something to fear but it isn't what we seem to fear at the moment, or at least those 15 of us who showed up the City Council meeting at the behest of ex chief Nielsen.

Posted by Sandy Crittenden
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Nov 24, 2010 at 9:00 pm

Glen Nielsen undoubtedly knew I would support the town’s interest in outsourcing police services, which likely explains why I wasn’t informed of this meeting and why the residents’ input appears so one-sided.
A number of years ago, during Steve Cader’s tenure as chief, I became curious about police department costs versus services. At that time, I personally conducted interviews with informed police officials (in some cases chiefs) from Atherton, Menlo Park, and Redwood City and from the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Department.
What I found as a result of these interviews was that the Sheriff’s Department was a highly-trained force of very experienced patrolmen and that the residents of the communities they served were very satisfied. In addition, the cost that the Sheriff was charging Woodside and Portola Valley was a fraction of what Atherton was paying for its police services. Atherton’s costs compared to its neighbors Menlo Park and Redwood City were also dramatically higher when comparing area, number of households and miles of roadway. Granted, the Sheriff’s patrolmen were paid better than Atherton’s, but if services are outsourced, Atherton would no longer incur the expense of a chief, inspectors or office staff.
When Atherton had its second murder several years ago, the Atherton Police immediately enlisted the Sheriff’s crime lab and trained personnel to assist and more properly investigate the crime.
During a hostage situation in the Fair Oaks area, the Highway Patrol and the Sheriff were called in. The Atherton Police were put in charge of stationing a patrol car at the intersection of Middlefield and Marsh Road while the CHP and Sheriff did the real work. This is not to say that the Atherton Police are not a good and qualified force, only to point out that the Sheriffs department is better trained and better equipped.
If Atherton’s police services are outsourced, protection would not be scaled back. In fact, with outsourcing to the Sheriff’s Department, protection would likely improve, and also cost less.
If Atherton decides to outsource police services, the Sheriff’s Department has stated that it would hire all of the Atherton officers. No officers would be without a job. They’d just have new employers.
When interim Chief Brown Taylor was hired to clean house at Atherton PD, the officers he let go were immediately hired by the Sheriffs department. Also, since his retirement from Atherton, former Chief Bob Brennan has continued with a position in the Sheriffs department.
Atherton’s interests are best served if its police services are under the control of the Sheriffs department. Although surveys mailed to Atherton residence indicate they are generally happy with their police services, the question of cost has not been addressed. Opinions might change in light of cost comparisons with other local cities and jurisdictions.
Atherton’s residents deserve a serious look into outsourcing police services to the Sheriff’s Department.

Sandy Crittenden

Posted by Credibility Problem
a resident of Atherton: other
on Nov 24, 2010 at 9:20 pm

Crittenden, you have a serious credibility problem along with McKeithen and Buckheit. You see, just like those two, you had a fight with an Atherton cop. No wonder you've got an axe to grind! Yes, there are less than 3% of residents who aren't totally in favor of keeping our police department and you're one of them. So what. [Portion removed;see terms of use]

Posted by Cicero
a resident of another community
on Nov 24, 2010 at 9:28 pm

If you don't like the message, attack the messenger.

You "Credibility Problem" are the one with a credibility problem.

Posted by code blue
a resident of Atherton: other
on Nov 24, 2010 at 9:52 pm

Just like Glen's e-mail that was sent to only his benefactors club and which slanted the results of citizen input at this meeting on outsourcing, likewise for Brennans suvey which was not sent out to those households who were likely to express any concerns with the APD. Our household was not included and did not even receive the survey. I don't even know who did the tally or what they were supposedly counting: by address, by number of adult residents, by just responses received, who knows?
Thank you for post Sandy--but I don't think just sending the entire APD to the Sheriff would solve all that needs to be addressed here--it would help with our budget problems sure, but better to clean this mess up before we send it next door where it will continue to haunt us.
Also to "credibility problem"--Sandy has lived here his entire life which is long enough to remember what this police dept. used to be like before it got ruined and to entittle him to as many opinions as he wants to come up with on his hometown. He is allowed to both care and participate and many are paying attention to him.

Posted by Credibility Problem
a resident of Atherton: other
on Nov 25, 2010 at 12:02 am

No matter how many times Sandy Crittenden, John Buckheit, Kathy McKeithen, Melinda Tevis, or their cronies argue for outsourcing the police department, it will never, ever happen. It would be, as a distinguished resident said last week, World War 3. These four should move out of Atherton and go somewhere they can be with like minded people, such as a bunker in Montana or wherever so they can stop making the rest of us miserable. Atherton residents are not going to short-sightedly look at costs in determining life and death issues such as police services! GET IT?

Posted by code Blue
a resident of Atherton: other
on Nov 25, 2010 at 1:19 am

Creds: Two of the four people you mention are lifers (60 year residents), and at least one of them has never been an advocate for outsourcing anything other than bullies with badges.
The only life or death issues that I am aware of pertain only to at risk elderly residents, or metaphorically I suppose also to the continued existence of an at risk police department. If concern for the later best describes your fears and not the former then every house in Atherton is going to need a bunker.

Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Nov 25, 2010 at 7:29 am

Since Atherton could get BETTER quality police services from outsourcing at HALF our current cost there is no rational reason not to outsource. We could retain all of the current honest, hard working officers and have immediate access to better backup and a broad range of highly specialized police services. Our costs would be paid in full each year and there would be no follow on pension shortfall payment calls by CalPers. Our officers would have dramatically better training and promotion opportunities. And if we still wanted more coverage or services we could add those and still be well below our current cost per capita for police services.

The Town's fundamental budget shortfall could be completely eliminated by this simple solution.

Posted by sally reed
a resident of Atherton: other
on Nov 25, 2010 at 8:26 am

The strongest indcation that the Atherton Police Department is overstaffed and underworked lies within the Atherton PD's own offices.

Officers have a room to sleep in during their 12 hour shifts. This sleeping room was ostensibly created to give officers a chance to rest before and their shifts prior to beginning their long commute home.

This sleeping room is being abused however as officers are taking lengthy naps, especially at night when they should be on patrol.

One can thank Bob Brennan and Glenn Nielsen for this clever way to bilk the taxpayers.

Posted by tammy cristiansen
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Nov 25, 2010 at 8:49 am

If Atherton looses its Police Department it will have Glenn Nielsen to thank.

It was Nielsen at the helm when the Buckheit police report was falsified.

It was Nielsen who orchestrated the outster of the one finance director who was able to restore credibility in the Town's ability to manage its money, and who was able to build up the Town's financial reserves.

It was Nielsen who failed to protect an elderly woman from a slow near certian death at the hands of an elder abuser.

It was Nielsen who brought attention to excessive pay and retirement benefits with his hasty exit from the Town as Chief, an exit delayed long enough to get retirement earnings based upon his one and only year as Chief.

It is Nielsen who now works behind the scenes, whispering in the DA's ear to take a look at the Wickett conservatorship and how Buckheit has managed it. Nielsen is doing this for one reason. Nielsen doesn't want the DA to look at how Nielsen and his department failed to protect this lady after he had painstakingly cultivated a friendship with her over many years.

It is Nielsen who threatens "World War III" if the City Council seriously considers outsourcing the PD. If World War III erupts, it will be Glenn Nielsen who has blood on his hands.

Posted by it isn't about the money
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Nov 25, 2010 at 10:53 am

During the past two and a half years, two people, Jon Buckheit and John Johns have been subject to false accusations of criminal conduct.

Jon Buckheit won a declaration of factual innocense in his domestic incident, thereby rightfully restoring his place as a pillar in the community. John Johns, in his legal battle won a certificate of commendation from the Atherton City Council, thus clearing his name on charges of fraud.

Buckheit and Johns fought courageously and tenaciously to clear their names. All of us in Atherton owe them a debt of gratitude.

What made their battles especially difficult is that, in both cases, the police falsified reports documenting their so called "investigations" that were conducted.

[Portion removed; unsupported accusations of criminal behavior violate terms of use.]

Lying it seems comes quite easily to our men and women in blue.

We here in Atherton are used to paying a premium. We don't mind paying top dollar for top quality.

With our corrupt and inefficient police force, we are in the unfortunate position of paying a premium for shoddy services being delivered by dishonest people.

This is why we need to dump our police force. It isn't about the money, it is about value and accountability.

Posted by Brian Bothun
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Nov 25, 2010 at 11:49 am

The Atherton police department has two main problems -- cost and credibility. If steps are not taken to control these issues the town government is at risk of imploding.


When any resident needs the police and calls 911 they want the same thing -- a well-trained officer to respond quickly, and professionally handle the situation at hand. It doesn't really matter whether the patrol car is emblazoned with an Atherton Police logo or the sheriff's color scheme.

If there are substantial cost savings possible from contracting with the sheriff or another agency, then the City Council owes it to residents to investigate. Anything that would reduce or eliminate the town's pension liabilities is worthy of investigation.

If police services are outsourced the town could specify the level of service it is willing to pay for. It might cost a little more, for example, to have the dispatch center monitor resident burglar alarms. Maybe we pay for a dedicated traffic officer, maybe we don't. These are all things that can be negotiated.

I urge the City Council to continue to explore outsourcing and obtain bids in order to make an informed decision.

One thing is for sure -- the sky will not fall if Atherton dismantles its police department in favor of an outside contractor. The town doesn't run its own fire department, yet we have top-notch fire protection as part of our membership in the Menlo Park fire district. There is no reason the town couldn't benefit from outsourcing police.


The credibility problem is harder to get a handle on. The police department has a long history of problem-plagued chiefs. The town is now facing a $10 million lawsuit that raises serious questions about the practices, oversight and honesty of our town-run police department.

Clearly somebody did something wrong at the police department and it has yet to be explained to the public what really happened. The longer this goes on the deeper distrust grows of the department and all of its officers.

Unfortunately this situation was allowed to fester. Since nobody has been fired or charged in connection with the Buckheit case, residents don't know whether there is one bad officer or if the entire department is corrupt.

Until this situation is resolved it will only add more fuel to the outsourcing discussions. Chief Mike Guerra has been on the job a little more than one year. It is beyond time for Guerra to take steps publicly to explain what happened and detail his plans to eliminate the credibility problem. If Guerra is unwilling or unable to make changes he should resign.

I am a 46-year resident of Atherton and I have witnessed a lot of changes at the police department. When I was a kid I remember then-Chief Leroy Hubbard coming to our house to investigate a report that our gardener had discovered and killed a rattle snake in our yard. Our gardener apparently told a neighbor about the snake and that neighbor called police. The chief explained that construction of Interstate 280 had driven rattlers down into Atherton. After inspecting the dead snake Hubbard concluded it was not a rattler. I remember my parents being impressed that the chief himself came out to investigate.

In the years since then I have seen officers come and go. Some were outstanding officers. Some probably shouldn't have been hired in the first place.

I won't lower the level of discourse into naming individual officers, but I will say this about former Chief Glenn Nielsen. Throughout his entire career in Atherton, Nielsen is a guy who acted like he wanted to be chief. So it is beyond curious as to why he retired suddenly after little more than one year on the job. The fact that Nielsen is now working again raises questions about him actually wanting to retire. And the timing of his departure compared with the timeline of the Buckheit case certainly raises questions.

Atherton has a long history of problem-plagued police chiefs. Chief Steve Cader, who was forced from office in 1998 after voting in an Atherton election while living in Menlo Park, wasn't the first.

After Chief Hubbard retired in the 1970s he was replaced by Shriden Flanders. Chief Flanders left in disgrace (I don't remember if he resigned or was fired) after some sort of shenanigans involving results of police officer promotion exams.

Take a look at the history section of the police department's Web site.

Web Link

The police department history stops in 1938. There is no mention of Cader, Flanders or any other former chief after 1938. It's no wonder why.

The Web site also shows a department portrait with former Chief Nielsen standing front and center. This sends the wrong message.

Is the police department so crippled that it can not manage to gather its officers together for a portrait with the new chief? If photography is the problem I pledge to arrange at no cost to the town to have a photographer take the portrait any time and any place that Chief Guerra determines.

I am certain that posters to this forum who choose to hide behind anonymous pseudonyms will attack this post or me. I am not afraid to use my real name and I stand behind what I say. Unless you are using your real identity, don't bother wasting bandwidth to shoot insults or unproductive barbs from behind anonymous pseudonyms.

Posted by Michael G. Stogner
a resident of another community
on Nov 25, 2010 at 12:07 pm

Thank You and Welcome back Brian Bothun.

Posted by Interested
a resident of another community
on Nov 25, 2010 at 12:20 pm

Peter are you certain Atherton would no longer be subject to Calpers increases. I believe that the Sheriffs Department is subject to the County Pension Scheme, in which case the variations in the Calpers pool would still mean it is responsible to pay for them since if an officer has more than 5 years of service he is vested. A small point, but I thought you might know the answer. That said, your thinking on this issue is precisely to the point, as was Mr. Bothun's.

Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Nov 25, 2010 at 2:31 pm

My reading of the contracts between local jurisdictions and the Sheriff is that those contracts are fixed price contracts for a defined period of service with NO provision for later additional charges to fund pension costs - a true pay-as-you-go approach which totaly simplifies local budgeting and cost control.

Posted by John P Johns
a resident of another community
on Nov 25, 2010 at 2:32 pm

When I expressed concerns over fraud in the Police Department back in 2007. I was acused of fraud. My office was raided, my computer siezed.

My complaint of fraud was never investigated.

A police investigation pertaining to my illegal dentention and the criminal investigation of me was falsified.

As is the case in Buckheit's experience, nobody in the Atherton Police Department seems interested in who did what and why.

The obvious problem with your police department is that it is more interested in retaining power than it is in enforcing and respecting the rule of law.

Posted by code blue
a resident of Atherton: other
on Nov 25, 2010 at 3:59 pm

I wanted to add on to Mr. Bothan's remarks that the outsourcing option would also put the breaks on the need to build the APD a new Town Administrative Building (what was it, 18,000,000?) for ladies showers and sleeping rooms.
Since the current administration building and its employees are mostly utilized to manage police department behavior related issues, this could conceivably free up both money and staff time plus multiple other town resources and even room space for alternate purposes.
Also Brian- thank you for the Thanksgiving Day memories of Chief Hubbard's era--Atherton should never have settled for less than the standard he set for those 40 years. It is easy to see now, how lucky we were.

Posted by AthertonResident
a resident of Atherton: other
on Nov 26, 2010 at 10:45 am

so happy that this is being discussed and considered--the town really needs to look at the money that can be saved over consolidating the infrastructure of departments. It would be great to have the patrolman housed in the same spot in town but have all of the other services consolidated to a more updated facility. We would feel the same level of service for less money. We love the proximity of the police department and the quality will increase as they become part of a larger force and more training.

Posted by Innuendo
a resident of another community
on Nov 26, 2010 at 8:21 pm

All of you are waltzing around the real issue.
Outsourcing, or the lack of it in our communities, has begun to radically change all of our lives.
In the middle of this mess is Arizona which is not too wise when it comes to governing...sort of like our County.
We want, we don't want, to have jobs go out, but we need to get those we don't let in, to do the stuff we don't like work.
It is beginning to show and people in the U.S. are basically, since the industrial revolution, a bit too spoiled and do not like to wipe the dishes after dinner.
That is a weak but actually a true analogy.
Nobody knows what to do IF they can start spending money again.
At this point, it is vulgar and should we find a business with jobs actually taking off, that means a dreadful amount of money to have to pay "ordinary people" and also support an ongoing war, higher property taxes, and medical care for those who are entitled to work for minimum wages and their health care included.
Why, would that mean less separation of the classes and turn into a Meg Whitman, who must be going crazy figuring out how to create a new business she would have done had she climbed her way to the Presidency via Governorship? People can be clever, and wily in the U.S. under the old rules, but they are not working now and will more than likely not work when and how they are changed.
There might be a lot of unhappy people during these changes and the possibilities of rage through demonstrations and a lack of a police force which it will take to control "dissidents"....actually, they might be referred to as revolutionaries like all countries have going at this moment.
Even all the "ostriches" know that this is going to be the last real "Thanksgiving" as created by our forefathers.
It is difficult to believe that all that originated in AMERICA not that long ago and today most people are not of any one religion but terrified of just one.
Although it would not ever have occured to them, can you imagine our Pilgrim fathers watching as our mother's had to bear their private body parts in order to fly to visit their children in another state?
We were the world's greatest power just a couple of years ago, and now, the American Indians, on their reservations, probably feel more safe than all of us who put them there.
With our great minds and scientific inventiveness, we do not have a clue how to deal with people and outsourcing or "insourcing" (in case we should actually get something going like a project which would involve all legal Americans?
I am not old enough but have been told how our parents made fun of the "flower children" learned to plant and grow their own food in communes while they believed in free love. Now, I doubt if schools even teach Agronomy1 in case of some unearthly disaster or a strike among our legal teamsters, farmers, or hospital workers.I would hate to have to be the leader of our free world and make the decisions that we must all have victory gardens of some sort, since we cannot pay for the transportation of foods to union run markets.
Tis a consumnation devoutly to not be wished.
What did Reagan say? "Tear the wall down"?......that would sure make it easy on those of us who have wealth but no help or food that can be delivered like the old days.
How about making farmers into part time policemen? Sort of like a working National Gourd.

Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Nov 26, 2010 at 8:36 pm

Outsourcing police services to the County still keeps the police officer jobs local and has nothing to do with outsourcing other kinds jobs to overseas.

Posted by Bob
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Nov 26, 2010 at 8:45 pm

While I live in MP, I am an advocate of efficient services whether it is fire, law, public works, schools, etc.

There are some basic questions -- does it make sense to have so much redundant overhead in our county? (i.e. multiple fire or police chiefs or school superintendents or dispatch centers)

Atherton's Town Council (and potentially its residents) need to decide whether having its own police service is worth the cost or can they maintain a level of service by outsourcing? Which one is more important -- having your own police department or financial sustainability?

From what I have learned and foresee, the cost of public service is only going to go up, and [smaller] municipalities will have to pay more in order to keep their own entities.

Today it's places such as Atherton; tomorrow, it could be Menlo Park.

Posted by POGO
a resident of Woodside: other
on Nov 26, 2010 at 9:16 pm

There was a time when we called the airline reservation department, spoke with someone in Dallas, booked our reservations, reserved our seats and paid for our tickets. Today, we do it on the internet, seeing all of your choices at a fraction of the cost for the airlines. I suppose an airline could bring back the days of live USA-based reservations agents, but I suspect they would soon be at a disadvantage to their competition.

There was a time when you walked into a bank and cashed checks. When you received bills monthly, wrote checks, sealed them in envelopes, and mailed them off. Today, we do that at ATMS and over the internet in a fraction of the time at a fraction of the cost. We also have instant access to every check and statement we have ever had.

It is no different with other services. Eventually, economics will dictate that we have broad-based fire, police and other services. Like banks and airlines - where our first impressions were negative - these services will also more efficient, higher quality and less expensive.

Elected officials with just a little vision will embrace this change instead of resisting it.

Posted by fiscally responsible
a resident of Atherton: Lloyden Park
on Nov 30, 2010 at 11:34 am

The best thing for the Town's financial mess is to seriously look at out sourcing. San Carlos did it successfully. The sheriff provides police services for Woodside, Portola Valley, Unincorporated Menlo Park, Unincorporated Redwood City , Ladera, parts of San Mateo and the entire north/central and south coast. Taking on little Atherton would be a non issue for them. The benefits to the town would be huge. The sheriff has everything built in at no cost for training etc. S.W.A.T/detectives/sex crimes unit/school resources/K9/patrol and on and on. It is the fiscally responsible thing to do. I am not the only one who is sick and tired of hearing about the unethical department and the lawsuits generated because of the incompetance. Enough is enough.

Posted by annoyed
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Nov 30, 2010 at 1:18 pm

"Atherton residents get nervous over out sourcing"...what a misleading headline. Atherton residents aren't "nervous" about anything. They are furious over the tax money abuse and dirty business that goes on behind closed doors every day. THey are smart enough to know that if help is needed and 911 is dialed who ever is contracted will respond just as fast and certainly more competently. How many MILLIONS of dollars in litigation must be paid before the Town Counsel gets the big picture?

Posted by jay goldstone
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Nov 30, 2010 at 8:06 pm

My friend's mother was almost murdered by a leech, a predator, an elder abuser.

[Portion deleted. Please don't use Town Square to accuse someone of wrong-doing.]

We need a new police department because we cannot trust the existing department.

Posted by erin green
a resident of Atherton: other
on Nov 30, 2010 at 9:37 pm

I have resided here for many years. However the events of the past few years make it so that I can no longer trust our Police Department. I know of one person who just recently, was followed and then pulled over without probable cause by two Atherton police officers. What was her crime? She publicly criticized the PD for its incompetence.

I can recall when the Police Department had barking dogs outside an audit committee meeting to discuss the suspension of our former finance director. What was the finance director's crime? He complained about fraud in the Police Department.

This behavior is inexcusable. It should no longer be tolerated.

Posted by mathman
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Dec 1, 2010 at 7:05 am

If one were to open the Town books and total all the monies paid out due to lawsuits that the Town lost, the numbers would be staggering. The town has LOST lawsuit after lawsuit for being in the wrong. That is a huge red flag. This is not even including the actual pending multi million dollar suits that have been filed and will no doubt be paid out as well. It is time for the Town to realize they are in way over their head. The Town already and always has contracted fire/paramedic services. Why not just contract police services as well. If the option does not go to the Sheriff, let Redwood City Police or Menlo Park Police take over services. They are both large enough to handle the very few calls Atherton generates and certainly will be provide better service with ethics and integrity. Those two attributes are clearly lacking in the police employees the town employs at the moment.

Posted by Curious
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Dec 1, 2010 at 10:47 am

[Post removed; same individual using multiple names on same thread; see terms of use.]

Posted by James
a resident of Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on Dec 3, 2010 at 10:03 am

Given the Town's latest development in the police department saga, maybe it's time for new oversight.

Posted by Candid Camera
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jan 5, 2011 at 4:38 pm

In response to Brian Bothun's post, there is a new picture of the Atherton police department on its web site, with Officer DeLugvt right at the front.

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