BY SARA TABIN
Daily Post Staff Writer
Residents told Palo Alto City Council last night (June 8) that they want the city to fire police officers that have engaged in misconduct.
More than 30 people spoke out about problems with Palo Alto policing, with many saying they were in agreement with the national Black Lives Matters movement.
Some of the speakers named individual cops including Tom DeStefano, who was the subject of a $250,000 civil settlement in 2013 and is named in a current claim for $3.8 million against the city for alleged brutality.
Several people also said they were unhappy about the city’s 10-day curfew which was imposed unilaterally by City Manager Ed Shikada without a council vote. Shikada lifted the curfew after two days following backlash including a letter from ACLU that threatened to sue the city.
Sean Chapman called the curfew unjust and a gross misuse of power.
Xander Koo said Shikada should resign. He said at a bare minimum he wants the city to release its report about Capt. Zach Perron’s use of the n-word and fire DeStefano. He also said the city should take away Sgt. Wayne Benitez’s pension. Benitez, who has retired, was named in a brutality suit that the city settled for $572,500 in November.
Laura Sieh said the police department uses taxpayer money to settle lawsuits to protect “overpaid thugs.”
Mayor Adrian Fine asked residents to focus on “policy not people.”
Mark Loveland said Fine was “tone-deaf and insensitive” for telling residents not to call out city officials by name. He said that if the police won’t hold officers accountable, and residents can’t call for accountability, then residents have no recourse.
Some residents said they want the city to reduce the Police Department’s $47 million budget and re-invest it in community services. Cairo Mo said the council will have more money to build affordable housing if money is taken away from police.
Others asked the department to adopt “eight can’t wait,” which are eight recommendations made by national activists that call for banning chokeholds and prohibiting cops from shooting at moving vehicles.
Chief Robert Jonsen said police can and must do better, but listening to the residents was “rough.” He said he doesn’t think the criticism is fair because the speakers don’t know all the facts.
He said the department has seven of the eight “eight can’t wait” suggestions in place already. He said an independent police auditor reviews how the department handles complaints against officers.
The Perron n-word report was supposed to be reviewed by the auditor, who would have made a public report about it, but top city officials decided it would treated as an HR matter, which is confidential by law.
Council unanimously passed a resolution endorsing the Black Lives Matter movement. Council also asked Shikada to return next Tuesday with ideas for reviewing and improving police policies focused on accountability and eliminating racism. Council wants the framework to include a review of hiring practices. Shikada will also begin a diversity initiative for the city.
Correction: In an earlier version of this story, the names of Laura Sieh and Xander Koo were misspelled.