Kevin Fagan, San Francisco Chronicle, November 11, 2008
Dozens of angry citizens packed the Palo Alto City Council chambers Monday night decrying what they believe is racial profiling by the city’s police force, with some calling for the embattled police chief to step down or be fired.
The demand follows remarks Oct. 30 by Palo Alto Police Chief Lynne Johnson, in which she told a crowd at a community meeting that she had directed her officers to question African American people in areas where there had been a spike in street robberies. The meeting was convened to discuss what the Police Department was doing to solve the crimes. Suspects in most of the robberies were black.
The chief said she told her officers that if “they see an African American, you know, in a congenial way we want them to find out who they are.”
She also told them to keep an eye out for black people with do-rags because one of the robbers wore one.
Her remarks kicked up a political dust storm and quickly drew condemnation from Palo Alto’s mayor and city manager, the NAACP and others. Johnson has apologized and said her remarks were misconstrued and that the department does not condone racial profiling.
Palo Alto resident Betty Ann Bryant, who is black, said her son was pulled over by officers because the light above his license plate on his car was out. She said he was stopped because of his race.