Racial slur allegation against police chief involved mobster ‘Shrimp Boy’ Chow

Menlo Park Police Chief Dave Bertini

BY EMILY MIBACH
Daily Post Staff Writer

During Thursday’s town hall meeting on policing in Menlo Park, Housing Commission member Karen Grove accused Police Chief Dave Bertini of using a racial slur during an ethics training for commissioners.

She didn’t say what the slur was. But minutes after the town hall meeting, Bertini announced his retirement, saying he lacked the confidence of council members.

Today, the Post asked Grove to elaborate on the slur. She said that last September Bertini told city commissioners during the training session that most people don’t go into politics to be corrupt, but that it occurs sometimes. He pointed to the example of former state Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, and his involvement with Chinatown crime syndicate leader Raymond “Shrimp Boy” Chow.

Bertini said he couldn’t remember Chow’s name, but that it sounded like something on a Chinese restaurant menu, according to Grove.

The Post reached out to Bertini to get his side of the story but did not hear back.

Grove said she told Bertini at the time that while Chow was not a good person, that it is still inappropriate to use a racialized slur when referring to him. Bertini then told Grove that he was referring to Chow’s nickname of “Shrimp Boy.”

The training went on, but Grove said she still felt unsettled by the comment, so she scheduled a meeting with Bertini. In the meeting, Grove said she tried to offer constructive criticism and to see if Bertini was “willing to listen and see the impact of his words and engage.”

“I got the answer, and he was not,” Grove said, saying that her conversation with Bertini reflected his answers at the June 4 city town hall meeting on policing, where he was a panelist.

During last Thursday’s town hall, people critiqued Bertini’s answers during that town hall meeting. Olatunde Sobomehin, head of East Palo Alto’s StreetCode Academy, said he felt disrespected and that Bertini was “defensive” and “put the buck on people of color to learn what’s happening with the police.”

Other callers said that Bertini responded to questions by telling them to read the police policy handbook, which some said is not totally user friendly.

After the training incident, Grove emailed City Manager Starla Jerome-Robinson and then-Mayor Ray Mueller about the meeting and urged them to attend the Government Alliance on Racial Equity conference in Oakland that would be occurring a few days later.

On Thursday, after two and a half-hour meeting where community members and the council discussed police reform and aired grievances about the police, Bertini announced his retirement. Bertini said that it was “obvious” that he had lost the trust of the council and that the community needs a fresh start given all of the recent unrest, and the best way to do that is without him at the helm.

12 Comments

  1. I don’t know about any of the rest mentioned here, but the whole Shrimp Boy/Leland Lee scandal I remember well and followed it closely at the time. It brought down Lee, a big politician. Shrimp Boy played a huge role. The unfolding scandal was in all the hardcopy newspapers, online, local TV and some national. What this tells me is that Ms. Grove doesn’t keep up with the news much beyond Menlo Park, so the Chief’s reference may have sounded jarring to her but it wasn’t the big racist deal she thought it was – it was Shrimp Boy’s nickname among his posse. If you have the nickname “Idiot” and someone then calls you Idiot, are you to blame? And you say, I can’t remember their name, but it’s like the word for a jerk, is someone else really justified for getting so upset as Grove did here? I think an apology by her is owed to the Chief (ex-Chief).

  2. You lost someone with 33-years experience. He was a GREAT leader. Kind, knowledgeable, willing to volunteer whenever it was necessary. You fools who are offended by everything are a joke. EVERY ethnic, racial, and religious group has been subjected to some form of abuses throughout history; not just in the United States.

    Many Europeans came here as indentured “servants” for years to pay off their passage to the New World.

    Focus on what is good in this Country and stop trying to dismantle it. Why do you think people from all over the world are risking everything they possess, including their lives, to get to the promised land, the United States of America.

  3. That’s a racial slur now?!? The problem with having a “conversation” about race is that the inappropriate language is changing all the time. What was OK last week is now a firing offense. No intelligent person wants to participate in a “conversation” about race out of fear that something they say, something completely innocent, will be used to run them out of a job or shut down their business. Ms. Grove should be ashamed for doing this to Chief Bertini. Her father, a hard-working Hungarian immigrant who never did this PC stuff, is spinning in his grave right now.

  4. The city manager and council have to explain this fiasco. They will soon also need to apologize for residents’ loss of trust in them as able to distinguish petty posturing from substantive civic concerns. Given Chow’s ‘Shrimp Boy’ nickname and comparison to a Chinese menu, it’s still unclear just what the ‘slur’ is supposed to be. The event will hopefully not set back a serious approach to racial bias, racism or police restructuring in our area.

  5. The telephone town hall and study session last Thursday, and the telephone town hall earlier in June, had a number of Menlo Park residents calling in to describe multiple instances of being stopped by police without evident reason. When city council members empathized with residents who described their experiences with local police. That is when Chief Bertini abruptly resigned, saying that he had lost the trust of the Council because of things happening in cities thousands of miles away. But the public testimony was from local residents talking about their experiences with local police.

    Then, a police officer called in and said that when a resident calls police about a “suspicious person”, the department is obligated to dispatch an officer with a gun. Meanwhile, the policy on Nextdoor requires users who want to report suspicious activity to have at least two features in addition to race. I would hope that a police department could have a policy at least as rigorous as Nextdoor in vetting how to dispatch officers.

    Over 100 residents had signed a petition asking for the city’s open data portal to track police stops by race and neighborhood, as it already tracks citations and arrests. I hope that the city hires a new police chief who can hear these concerns and address them.

  6. Everyone is focusing on the “slur” which is not at all the actual issue.

    Did Karen Grove over react. Yes.

    Did Chief Bertini over react to questions about policing practices and policies. YES!
    If Chief Bertini been willing to engage with the public in discussing policing practices of the department. NO

    And THAT is the issue. That is where the Chief has lost the trust of many in this town. This over pouring of support for a public servant who is unwilling to accept or participate in even the mildest of conversation about a critical system in our town is bizarre.

    As head of our police department he should be able to accept ANY and ALL critiques, criticism and conversation about ANY and ALL policies and practices.

    If my CEO and exec team set a meeting to discuss my department practices and policies, it would be my responsibility to be available to discuss every single aspect of how I run my department. Be open to suggestions for improvement.

    And my job doesn’t include the power to incarcerate and/or shoot people!

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