Councilmember calls meeting after Berkeley murder

Park Gate, scene of the Feb. 18 murder of Peter Cukor

Councilmember Susan Wengraf (District 6) has called a town hall meeting to discuss public safety in the wake of the Feb. 18 murder of Peter Cukor outside his home in north Berkeley. Police Chief Michael Meehan and City Manager Christine Daniel will both be in attendance, as will a supervising dispatcher, and BPD Area Coordinator Officer Byron White.

In a communication to her constituents, Wengraf wrote that she was saddened and disturbed by the murder. “The circumstances surrounding the incident have raised many concerns about safety and police protection. I have talked to some of you personally and others by email. However, given the nature of the incident, I think that a public meeting where you all have an opportunity to voice your concerns and get answers to your questions directly from the Police Chief would be in the best interests of our community.”

Cukor, 67, was assaulted and killed outside his home at Park Gate in the Berkeley Hills around 8:45 pm on Feb. 18. Police did not respond to an initial non-emergency call because they were focusing efforts on an Occupy Oakland march. The murder suspect, Daniel Jordan DeWitt, 23, is due in court on March 22.

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  • Jeff Leyser

    This is pure demagoguery on Wengraf’s part, and it makes me sick.  Cukor’s death is a tragedy, but he called the non-emergency number. Is BPD supposed to just magically know that it really was an emergency, and send in the squad cars with sirens blazing?  

    And talk about a no-win for BPD — if they did respond with force to a call on the non-emergency line that turned out to be a non-issue, and then something horrible happened at the Occupy Berkeley march, Wengraf would no doubt be calling a community meeting to discuss that.

    A Berkeley man dies, and a Berkeley politician uses the tragedy to get her name in the press.  Yuck.

  • bgal4

     This comment if way off based. Wengraf is doing her job.

    When I hear gunfire I call the non-emergency line, the police respond immediately. 

    Some residents dial  911 for a trespasser,  some of us dial 981-5900, same dispatchers queue the calls.

    This discussion is very important to educate folks when and how to contact the police. This is regularly a subject at neighborhood meetings and I am sure Chief  Meehan will be an asset.

    It is foolish to pretend that BPD is not stretched very thin, with an authorized strength down to 162,  Occupy Oaklands approval of a diversity of tactics ( violence) , the sheer volume of CFS.

  • Grizzly Peak Neighbor

    Jeff, 

    As a neighbor and someone who has followed this closely you are (as said below) way off-base.  If BPD was actually busy with other crimes in progress (or imminent possibility of one) it would be a different story.  But they were on standby and a command decision was made not to respond to anything that was not a Class 1 call (crime in progress).  In fact officers offered to respond before the murder and were told not to – only Class 1 calls were being handled.

    The Occupy protesters were not even going to be in Berkeley for an hour after this crime occurred.  

  • An

    Hey Jeff did it ever occur to you that the community requested that there be a meeting?  Your comment about Wengraf is unjustified, mean-spirited, and the only thing “Yucky” here is your comment.  This is what Council Members do.

  • The Sharkey

    I agree. This meeting is and should be more about BPD’s lousy procedure than anything else. And while they are extremely annoying and occasionally destructive, Occupy is not such a big threat that a single officer couldn’t have been dispatched to check out the situation with a prowler/trespasser.

  • another BUSD parent

    I agree, An, and think the town hall meeting is a good idea. Hope it will address the (mostly) mentally ill homeless who live in Tilden and the local pocket parks in the Hills. My husband takes GP to work and has seen the young man implicated in Mr. Cukor’s murder many times coming out of the park and drifting up & down GP.

  • guest

    I agree with most of the comments supporting the call for a town hall style meeting.  It will at minimum serve as a forum to share information and it may even possibly spur initiatives intended to minimize future tragedies.  I do not see how the meeting should be interpreted as an assumption that BPD did something wrong. 

  • Zachary RunningWolf

    As a participant of Oakland Occupation, a long time resident of Berkeley and now a Berkeley Mayoral candidate, I ma shocked. First, the Police chief explained that at 8.45 pm the police could not answer the call because they were monitoring the occupation Oakland march- An officer had offered to go but was called back. I was on the march and we had not left Oscar Grant Plaza at 8.45 pm and why it takes a entire police force to monitor a peaceful march?. Secondly, it disturbs me while growing up in Berkeley (since 1967) that our city Police would concentrate such a force to stop or interfere with freedom of speech and right to assembly especially at this volatile time, bank bailouts. The  Police chief then realizes the discrepancy in the time line and says that the police were in a meeting about occupation Oakland and this is why they cannot respond to an eventual murder another lie which is now a cover up by the police department.
         This Police chief  has done other miscues that need to be considered like the mutual aid to the UC Berkeley police department. First in November of 2011 when UC Berkeley police beat peaceful student on Sproul (Biko) Plaza and the worldwide viewing of the UC Davis pepper spraying of students. The stance by our Police chief was to pull back the mutual aid agreement which stated at the time Berkeley Police can only assist in an emergency and not be drag into student and or faculty issues. After the Christmas holidays both the Police chief, Mayor Bates and city council reversed its decision and allowed for the mutual aid to be strength at the cost to freedom of speech and right to assembly with the Berkeley residents paying out of their already heavily taxed pockets for UC Berkeley to clamp down on students, faculty and labor unions.
         Finally, it is my belief that the Police Chief Micheal Meachum should step down (resign).
      

  • PragmaticProgressive

    As I’ve learned recently, BPD apparently doesn’t ever approach a potential arrest situation that could turn violent with a single officer:  minimum of 3 officers required.  Not disagreeing with your point here — just noting that we’ve created conditions in which effective policing requires more heads than we can afford.

  • Tim D.

    I agree he should step down and save the city the cost and embarrassment of having to recall him.