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PALO ALTO, Calif. --
Palo Alto Police Chief Lynne Johnson spent part of Sunday trying to mend fences after some comments she made about African Americans last week.
The remarks came as Palo Alto tries to find the criminals involved in several robberies.
For several hours Sunday afternoon, Palo Alto's police chief went before about 60 members of the Jerusalem Baptist Church, to apologize for comments made last week.
Johnson apologized several times to the congregation at the Jerusalem Baptist Church, where the congregation is predominantly made up of African American parishioners.
"Nobody can say anything or do anything that makes me feel worse than I already do," said Johnson. "And again, I apologize."
It was clear this has sparked a deep concern in the community about unfair police treatment.
"I think she had to come," said Rev. Anthony Darrington, Sr. of the Jerusalem Baptist Church. "I think it would have been a grave insult to the African American community had she not come."
The appearance came after Chief Johnson's comments at a community meeting Thursday about a rash of 16 robberies in Palo Alto. In 10 of the cases, victims described the suspect as African American, which prompted the chief to say her officers were told to approach African Americans in a congenial way and "find out who they are".
The chief retracted her statement Sunday, saying officers are only looking for suspicious individuals matching this sketch in the case in the area of the crimes.
"Under no circumstances should officers stop anyone based solely on the color of their skin. I would not allow it. I abhor that," said Johnson. "If the suspects in these 10 robberies had been white, I would have said exactly the same thing."
When the church pastor grew combative, the chief's lieutenant took to the podium.
"I believe Chief Johnson has stood up here and said and apologized for what she has said," said Lt. Sandra Brown. "I want to know how long do you want her to apologize for that statement?"
The pastor demanded the chief commit to only stop people if there is absolute, probable cause or the person is in the middle of committing a crime.
"It is totally unrealistic to think that officers are able to observe all the crimes that are committed," said Johnson. "It doesn't unfortunately work that way."
For nearly three hours, community members voiced numerous stories of what they said was unfair police treatment toward the black community in Palo Alto. Many said they found themselves often being pulled over for no reason.
"I am distressed about the things that I've heard- and I'm taking that to heart. I will be contacting -- as I said -- ministers in the area to see how we can work together to rebuild the trust," said Johnson.
Most church members afterwards said they were glad the chief came.
"I personally think it was a good thing to do because then you actually show your face in the community," said Calvin Ross, a member of the Jerusalem Baptist Church. "And she did say something good -- you know when we know each other, then can trust a whole lot better. That's absolutely the case."

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