Palo Alto police chief to retire

November 20, 2008 12:00:00 AM PST
The words had bearly left her mouth and the controversy had already started. Three weeks after touching off a racial profiling firestorm, an embattled Bay Area police chief turns in her badge.

Palo Alto's Police Chief is beaten down. She explains her resignation with just one word.

"I think I was just tired, to be honest," said Palo Alto Police Chief Lynne Johnson.
"Tired of the fighting, tired of the criticism?" asked ABC7's Karina Rusk.
"Just tired of just being the chief," said Chief Johnson.

The weight of the job grew heavy with her own words three weeks ago. Chief Johnson says she regrets not being more articulate at a community meeting. She was addressing a series of robberies and suspects who were black.

"When our officers are out there and they see an African-American you know in a congenial way, we want them to find out who they are," said Chief Johnson, three weeks ago.

A public apology did nothing to silence angry charges of racial profiling. Community outrage was especially fierce in East Palo Alto where one in five residents are black. There is mixed reaction to Chief Johnson's resignation.

"If it had been anybody else they would be behind bars. That's a terrorist threat to every black person in this city," said Don Davison, a Palo Alto resident.

"I think that she should be given some grace. Maybe she should be given sensitivity courses," said Marlys White, a Palo Alto resident.

City Manager James Keene says Chief Johnson was not forced out, but clearly supports her decision.

"I'm grateful to her and commend her for what I really think was a leadership decision she made on behalf of the department and the community," said Keene.

Some community activist say only fresh leadership will bridge the divide between Palo Alto and East Palo Alto.

"It can't be more of the same from somebody that's within the department. We've got to get somebody from outside the department," said Aram James, a criminal defense attorney.

Chief Johnson leaves office with more than three decades of police service. She says those who know her, will not judge a lifetime of dedication by 30 seconds of ill chosen words.

"They know who I am, what my values are and what I stood for 34 years and what I meant to say," said Chief Johnson.

Her last day as chief is December 19th.


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