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Indybay Feature
Thu Nov 20 2008 (Updated 11/21/08)
Palo Alto Police Chief Resigns Amid Accusations of Racial Profiling
Accused of Racial Profiling, Chief Lynne Johnson Announces Retirement
On November 20, the City of Palo Alto announced that its controversial police chief will retire on December 19. Chief Lynne Johnson sparked protests and a November 9 march on the city when she stated that she had instructed officers on her force to make "consensual contact" with African American men to counter a crime spike in Palo Alto. 

Her remarks were quoted in news reports worldwide and the topic of racial profiling became a much discussed issue at subsequent city council meetings. Some city officials took the opportunity to acknowledge that racial profiling exists and must be combatted, while others took the stance that the police chief "merely misspoke".

Although the police chief made several attempts at apologizing, many residents of the city and surrounding communities were left wondering why she directed her officers to look for African Americans with do-rags when victims of a 5-month city-wide crime spree had variously described suspects as being of African American, Pacific Islander, Latino or white descent.

Chief Johnson has been the target of other criticism in recent years, including what many feel was an over-reaction to a small anarchist rally in downtown Palo Alto in June 2005. To bolster the Palo Alto police force, Chief Johnson had all other police agencies in Santa Clara County plus the California Highway Patrol send a combined 233 officers to Palo Alto for about seven hours on the afternoon and evening of June 25. In addition Palo Alto was charged for the use of a police helicopter from the city of San Jose. The total cost to the city of Palo Alto is estimated to have been around $200,000 for police protection for a pre-announced anarchist rally, apparently organized by local teenagers, that began around 7 p.m. and ended about 10 p.m.

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