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Palo Alto Continues Race and Equity Efforts

Ahead of Martin Luther King Jr. Day on Monday, January 18, learn more about the City’s race and equity work underway in this brief status update

The City of Palo Alto launched its race and equity efforts in June 2020 with a resolution affirming that Black lives matter and adopting an Race and Equity Framework and initial action plan. A previous blog details efforts that the City completed between June 2020 and mid July 2020. Since that time, the City has been very active with several efforts underway to further enhance equity in Palo Alto. This blog provides a summary of work recently accomplished, next steps, and ways the community can stay up to date and participate in upcoming events.

With Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day next week, it is an excellent time for reflection and commitment to the ongoing Race and Equity work underway. Dr. King led us in imagining a future where everyone is valued and working together.

In November 2020, Palo Alto adopted a Mission Statement for our Race and Equity work that states:

“The City of Palo Alto is committed to creating a respectful, fair, and professional workplace and city. We will identify prejudices, eliminate inequities, welcome many perspectives, and use a collaborative approach to create an environment that works for everyone. The City’s commitment to achieve equity in Palo Alto is the shared responsibility of our residents, organizations, governments, and other institutions.”

The City is continuing to work toward this goal. Read below for more planned events, dialogues, reading lists, and a summary of recent City Council actions.

Planned Events and Dialogues

We can all make a difference today so join us at any of the following events and discussions:

1. Anti-Racism and Equality Book Discussions: The Junior League of Palo Alto•Mid Peninsula (JLPA•MP) is hosting Anti-Racism & Equality Book Review Events during Martin Luther King Jr. weekend. Each event will be 30–45 minutes long and will introduce books and summaries provided by the Palo Alto City Library. The events are organized by age groups. Everyone is welcome and book pre-reads are not required. You can find the Zoom links on the Palo Alto Library website.

2. Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Event: Join Youth Community Service (YCS), the City of Palo Alto, the City of East Palo Alto and community partners in a celebration of the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. at our annual Martin Luther King Jr. celebration on Monday, January 18, 2021.

This year’s theme is called “Together We Rise” and it is reimagined in a virtual format in acknowledgment of our current regulations around large gatherings. Though virtual, it is as robust as ever. The event will take place from 11 a.m. — 1 p.m. on Monday, January 18, and will include messages from our Mayor and the East Palo Alto Mayor as well as videos from partner organizations and a Youth Panel hosted by the Palo Alto youth discussing systemic racism. You will also hear from our community partners and participate in Service-Learning Projects to support our local communities and an outdoor Martin Luther King, Jr. legacy walk.

For more details and to register for the Zoom link go here.

3. Human Relations Commission Report on Black and Brown Palo Alto: The HRC was assigned by the City Council to gather Black and Brown experiences, historical and current, in Palo Alto. The HRC conducted their work over the summer and fall of 2020 and will be presenting their final report, feedback, and action plan to address equity and inclusion in Palo Alto on January 19, 2021.

The report is available here.

4. 21-Day Equity Challenge: This is a powerful opportunity to develop a deeper understanding of how inequity and racism affect our lives and our community. For 21 days during Black History Month, Palo Alto students, parents, staff and the community at large are encouraged to do one action each day to deepen our connections and further our understanding of power, privilege, oppression, and equity. The challenge can be done individually, with friends and family, or organization-wide. Please sign up and encourage others to do so as well!

Registration coming soon.

5. Upcoming Art Exhibits: Information about the following exhibits are available on the Palo Alto Art Center website. Go here for the website link.

New Exhibit Opening on February 2, 2021: Palo Alto Art Center will host “Where the Heart is: Contemporary Art by Immigrant Artists” from February 2 through April 3, 2021. This exhibition will feature artists who have immigrated to the United States and whose experiences are reflected in their art practice. There are more foreign-born residents in Santa Clara County (of which Palo Alto is a part) than in any other county in California, about 38% of the population.

New Exhibit Opening on May 1, 2021: The Art Center will also be hosting “The Black Index” from May 1 through August 22, 2021. The artists featured in The Black Index build upon the tradition of Black self-representation as an antidote to colonialist images. Using drawing, performance, printmaking, sculpture, and digital technology to transform the recorded image, these artists question our reliance on photography as a privileged source for documentary objectivity and understanding. Their works offer an alternative practice — a Black index — that still serves as a finding aid for information about Black subjects, but also challenges viewers’ desire for classification.

6. Book to Action: Palo Alto Library will host a program series in May 2021 with a theme focused on racial equity and antiracism advocacy and will engage the community in a conversation and some events around the book: How to be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi.

More information will be available closer to the event.

Race & Equity Focused Reading Lists

The Palo Alto City Library has compiled collections of fiction and non-fiction titles for all age groups which explore the fight for racial justice and equity through activism, education, and resistance.

Here are the reading lists:

Recent City Council Actions

The City Council discussed race and equity work in the ad hoc committees that were established in June 2020. The ad hocs met regularly between July and October and had regular updates to the City Council in August, September, and October 2020. The City Council wrapped up the ad hoc committee work in November 2020 and adopted many recommendations including to assign ongoing race and equity work to the City Council Policy and Services Committee starting this year in 2021.

The Council reports and other reports related to the City Council’s race and equity work from 2020 can be seen here (with more recent discussions listed first):

  1. Adoption of the mission statement as a guiding statement of the City’s commitment to make equity a foundational principle in the City’s operational work;
  2. Direct Staff to expedite implementation of the new police records management system with quarterly reports to Council, and to return with the necessary agreements for the records management system allowing for Racial and Identity Profiling Act (RIPA) implementation;
  3. Starting after the full implementation of the RMS and the first data collection period, direct Staff to resume annual data collection and analysis of police contact data similar to the previous Stop Data reports;
  4. Direct Staff to work with Santa Clara County on implementation of participation in the Santa Clara County Psychiatric Emergency Response Team (PERT) program and the Mobile Crisis Response Teams (MCRT) program and to return to the City Council with any necessary agreements for program participation;
  5. Direct Staff to develop/update a policy on the timing of records release related to investigations that qualify for public disclosure under SB 1421 and AB 748;
  6. Direct Staff to amend and expand the current Independent Police Auditor’s (IPA) scope of services to include all administrative use of force reports where a baton, chemical agent, TASER, less-lethal projectile, canine, or a firearm is used, and all cases where the subject’s injuries necessitate any treatment beyond minor medical treatment in the field;
  7. Direct Staff to maintain an every six (6) months schedule for IPA reports to City Council containing reviews ready at the time of the report; and for the IPA to provide an audit workplan to the City Council for approval;
  8. Direct Staff to include use of force information to the regular Supplemental Report submitted to the City Council as a cover memorandum to each IPA report;
  9. Refer the police reform legislative priority thoughts and input to the Policy and Services Committee who will be discussing the City’s legislative priorities in December 2020;
  10. Refer all race and equity work to the Policy and Services Committee for citywide diversity and inclusion practice areas and policing practice areas;
  11. Direct Staff to return in the fall of 2021 with parameters, proposals, and strategies prior to engaging in Palo Alto Peace Officers’ Association negotiations;
  12. Direct Staff, in coordination with the City’s overall diversity and inclusion efforts, to conduct a workforce demographic assessment as baseline information and to pursue an employee assessment to measure City workforce culture;
  13. Policy and Services CEDAW recommendation: Direct Staff to proceed with a community summit on gender equity issues and next steps in Palo Alto;
  14. If the County does not assign a resource to Palo Alto in the next six months, refer to Policy and Services Committee the exploration of the feasibility of a CAHOOTS-type program;
  15. Amend the contract to require the Independent Police Auditor (IPA) to meet with the City Council in open session twice a year with each report;
  16. Refer to the Policy and Services Committee consideration of the Independent Police Auditor (IPA) oversight of internal complaints regarding misconduct related to harassment, discrimination, or retaliation resulting in city investigation of uniformed officers.
  17. Direct Staff to work with IT to streamline publishing police policy updates to the City website on a quarterly basis.

Other previous Council actions include:

- Nov. 2, 2020: (CMR 11690) Palo Alto Police Department Use of Force Policy Changes

- Nov. 2, 2020: (CMR 11708) Referral to the Palo Alto Public Art Commission for the Development of Permanent Public Art on King Plaza at City Hall

- Oct. 26, 2020: (CMR 11689) Update on Palo Alto’s Race & Equity Work

- Sept. 28, 2020: (CMR 11604) Update on Palo Alto’s Race & Equity Work and Next Steps (also discussion with the City’s Independent Police Auditor and the City Council)

- Sept. 14, 2020: (CMR 11573) Study Session with the City’s State Legislative Advocate Regarding Bills from the 2020 Legislative Session

- Aug. 24, 2020: (CMR 11551) Update on Palo Alto’s Race & Equity Work

- Aug. 24, 2020: (CMR 11516) Human Relations Commission Report on Their Review of 8 Can’t Wait Policies in Relation to Current Palo Alto Police Department (PAPD) Policies

The noteworthy actions that took place as a result of all the meetings listed above will be summarized in the next race and equity blog post.

Stay tuned for more soon!

More Online Resources

For the City’s race and equity webpage that provides background and more details about the City’s Race and Equity framework, go here.

To share input or feedback on this process, connect with us on social media or email us at

Go here for the staff report detailing the Race and Equity Framework

To learn more on the Human Relations Commission Recommendations on #8CantWait

Go here to read the City Council Resolution



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