'That is shameful': Palo Alto PD sergeant retires, leaving force with no Black officers

PALO ALTO, Calif. (KGO) -- Palo Alto recently celebrated the retirement of police Sgt. Adrienne Moore. City Council recognized Sgt. Moore's long career in law enforcement with a special resolution at this week's council meeting.

However, the development also meant the Palo Alto Police Department (PAPD) would be without any Black officers.



Following Monday's special resolution, retired public defender and Palo Alto resident Aram James reflected on that reality. Speaking publicly, he said, "Council needs to make sure we do our job to recruit African Americans to this department. I believe this is the first time in three or four decades that we've been without an African American officer."

"That is shameful," James continued.

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ABC7 News spoke with a former Palo Alto police officer who confirmed that to be the case. The former officer, who wished to remain anonymous, said that throughout the entire department currently, there are only three Black employees. The former officer explained two work as dispatchers and one as a Records Specialist.

"I think this is something which I'm glad that the resident spoke up about it," Councilman Greg Tanaka told ABC7 News. "Because I think a lot of us we're not aware of this."

Councilman Tanaka said he plans to ask about an ethnic breakdown to better understand how the city's police force is reflective of the community.

However, residents shared, although Palo Alto may be a "melting pot," they don't feel that's the case for its police department.

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"We all can walk around and see what type of people are wearing the police uniform here," resident Shelby McCray said. "So, there's definitely not diversity."

San Francisco resident Anand Bhoraskar shared, "For hiring, it is important that we have applicants of all types."

Acting Capt. James Reifschneider with PAPD said police recruiting has become much more challenging in recent years, with a shortage of applicants and other issues industry-wide.

In an email, he explained, "The Department has redoubled its recruiting efforts, in general, and with an emphasis on attracting a diverse applicant pool that is representative of the community we serve."

According to Reifschneider, in recent months, recruiters have attended "a number of military and collegiate recruiting events and made several presentations to local university and community college classes."

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While many tell ABC7 News the city must do more to diversify its police department, others say safety is what matters most.

"Our public safety is very good here," resident Mark Weiss said. "I think that's a higher priority than Affirmative Action or recruiting particular groups, per se."

Weiss said he supports Black Lives Matter. He added, "Black Lives Matter was very important here. We had a big rally June of 2020 with a lot of local leadership and a lot of Black people speaking at the rally."

Still, he acknowledged that with on-going development, "The historic Black community in Palo Alto is dwindling."

About the lack of Black officer representation, resident Shelby McCray added, "It's something that is worth talking about, something worth discussing, something worth focusing on. And having conversations like this is actually a good thing. It brings more attention to all the residents here."

PAPD Chief Bob Jonsen told ABC7 News, "We are proud of the fact that our department employs 32 persons who speak a variety of languages, to include; Spanish, Korean, Russian, Mandarin, Urdu, Tagalog, Portuguese, Cantonese, Vietnamese, and Farsi."

He said diversity in every aspect remains a top priority for the department, adding, "We are constantly recruiting to represent the community we serve. We had a hiring freeze in place for over a year and recently opened it up."

ABC7 News reached out to several city officials, including the city manager's office, city council and the Palo Alto POA for comment, but have not heard back.

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