BY ALLISON LEVITSKY
Daily Post Staff Writer
Palo Alto police are preparing to re-shoot a dramatic new officer recruitment video that’s been slammed as being overly aggressive, macho and militaristic.
“We’re in the process of making it a little more community-friendly,” Chief Bob Jonsen told the Post yesterday. “I wanted it to be a little more representative of Palo Alto.”
Retired Palo Alto Judge LaDoris Cordell, who led the effort to bring in an independent police auditor when she served on City Council in the 2000s, denounced the current video as “something out of ‘Cops,’” referring to the TV show where camera crews follow police officers in the field.
“There are lots of weapons, officers in riot gear, attack dogs — and a couple of shots of officers talking to kids,” Cordell said. “‘Come to Palo Alto and shoot ‘em up’? Really?”
The video is titled “Do You Have What It Takes? PAPD Is Hiring!” and features pounding, dramatic music, SWAT officers armed with assault rifles and a police dog practicing an attack on a trainer.
Winter Dellenbach, a longtime Barron Park neighborhood resident, said she was appalled by the video.
“My first thought was, ‘Holy cow, what kind of a message are we giving out to prospective hires?’” Dellenbach said. “You show a dog actually attacking a human being. That is reprehensible.”
A Palo Alto woman sued the city and several police officers last year after her son, a black Palo Alto High School student, was mauled by a police dog as officers allegedly looked on.
Dellenbach said she would have wanted the video to show police officers interacting with neighborhoods and classrooms, attending community meetings and helping out in an emergency situation like a flood or earthquake.
The video was posted by the department’s YouTube account on Dec. 7, a month before Jonsen left his job as Menlo Park police chief to come to Palo Alto.
It’s also on the police recruiting page on the city’s website at bit.ly/2sFdGIr along with information about the hiring process and pay and benefits.
Richard Brand, a 50-year Palo Alto resident, said he noticed the video on Thursday and complained to council members and City Manager
“I watched that and I said, ‘That’s not our police department. That’s not our city. That doesn’t represent who we are,’” Brand told the Post. “Does that represent the kind of people who we have on our staff today? I didn’t find that at all.”
Jonsen said the new video will be “a little softer.” Lt. James Reifschneider, the department’s personnel and training manager, will be in charge of working with the production company again.
“I’m not going to criticize whoever decided to do it the way they did it,” Jonsen said. “They highlighted a lot of the types of things that we are capable of responding to.”
Jonsen said he hoped the new video would be more like Menlo Park’s police recruiting video, which highlights community outreach and features officers speaking several different languages to highlight the department’s cultural diversity. The Palo Alto police began offering $25,000 bonuses for new hires in September when they said they were 12 officers short of the 92 they’re budgeted for.
Jonsen said yesterday that the department hadn’t hired any new officers since offering the bonus.
He said it had been difficult to find qualified recruits. Many would-be hires live outside the area, in part because of the high cost of housing near Palo Alto.