Community gathers after murder, quizzes Berkeley police

A large group attended a meeting Thursday night to discuss police response to the Feb. 18 murder of Peter Cukor. Photos: Frances Dinkelspiel

An estimated 150-200 people turned out on Thursday evening to Northbrae Community Church on The Alameda in north Berkeley to ask the Berkeley Police Department about their response to the Feb. 18 murder of Park Hills resident Peter Cukor.

There was a palpable sense of anxiety in the room as the meeting got under way and a significant media presence, with several TV crews as well as print and digital journalists in attendance.

When Councilmember Susan Wengraf opened by saying questions would be taken on written cards, there were shouts of dismay and hostile accusations leveled by several members of the audience.

However, once the meeting progressed, the mood became calmer and there were even moments of levity. Berkeley Police Chief Michael Meehan received several rounds of applause from an audience that generally skewed towards the over-50s.

Councilmember Wengraf, who called the meeting, was joined on the platform by Councilmember Laurie Capitelli, Chief Meehan, BPD Supervising Dispatcher Alan Lauborough and BPD Beat Coordinator Officer Byron White.

Chief Meehan fielded the lion’s share of the questions. He provided a timeline of the events of the night of Feb. 18 in terms of when the two calls about the incident came in and how they were handled, and he addressed questions that have been raised about the police’s decision to respond to emergency calls only on a night when an Occupy “Fuck The Police” march was scheduled to come into Berkeley from Oakland.

Many of the questions were specific ones relating to the Feb. 18 homicide, but as the evening wore on — the meeting began at 7:30pm and ended at around 9:30pm — the panel was asked to address more general questions about crime in Berkeley. A psychiatrist in the audience, Alan Cohen, offered to answer some particular questions about the handling of people with mental illnesses. The suspect in the murder case, Daniel Jordan DeWitt, is alleged to be a paranoid schizophrenic.

Councilmembers Susan Wengraf and Laurie Capitelli, BPD Supervising Dispatcher Alan Lauborough, BPD Chief Michael Meehan and BPD Beat Coordinator Officer Byron White addressed the audience and took written questions

The majority of the information shared by Meehan was covered by Berkeleyside in our sit-down interview with the BPD. He did, however, mention that DeWitt had told the police that he had walked to the site of the murder.

Councilmember Wengraf, responding to a question from the audience, said there was a household on Fairlawn Drive in the Berkeley hills connected to a DeWitt family, but, she said, they were not related to the family of the murder suspect.

Meehan said reports that the police were blaming the Occupy march for their decision not to respond to the first call from the Cukor household were false. And, later, he said BPD had been told that protesters might try to “occupy” the Berkeley Police station on the night of Feb. 18.

Zachary Running Wolf, who was in the audience and is running for mayor in the next Berkeley election, was part the Occupy march on the night of Feb. 18. He said there was no plot to take over police station. “We stated we were going to the I-House. It was unbelievable he said that.”

It was explained several times that Fire Station 7, which is across the street from the Cukor household on Park Gate, and where Peter Cukor is believed to have gone looking for help, was empty on the night of the homicide because the crew were handling a house fire call at 646 Vincente Avenue.

Chief Meehan stressed that the police department had been remiss in not releasing information quickly, which had led to it “getting behind the media curve”.

Zachary Running Wolf: no plot to take over the police station

He said certain media reports had been inaccurate and had unnecessarily ”increased the fear in the community”. “It is our job to inform you, not your job to dig it out of us,” he said.

After the meeting, Jan Collins, who lives on San Benito near Spruce, said: “I’m of course concerned about the issue of safety and the question of what would happen if I called the police. They really did answer that question. Meehan seems to have an awful lot of integrity.”

Shirley Dean, the former Mayor of Berkeley, was at the meeting. She said not all of her questions had been answered, in particular those about the number of officers monitoring the Occupy march. Speaking of the homicide, she said: “It was a perfect storm. It was clear that we really have to expect something like this could happen at any time. We need to be vigilant.”

Bob Flasher, who lives near Grizzly Peak, said: “I came here because I am the head of neighborhood watch at Grizzly Peak where the Cukors lived. [BPD] is a very smart, thoughtful and professional department. Obviously Chief Meehan has his act together and is doing everything possible to make [Berkeley] safer.”

Related:
Live tweets by Berkeleyside from the March 8 community meeting [03.08.12]
Berkeley police: We responded properly to Cukor’s murder [03.02.12]
Councilmember calls public meeting after Berkeley murder [02.29.12]
Murder suspect trial delayed for psychological assessment [02.24.12]
Murder suspect was looking for fictional girlfriend [02.23.12]
Councilmember: unanswered questions over murder [02.23.12]
Alleged killer had been in and out of mental institutions [02.21.12]
Berkeley hills neighbors react with shock to brutal murder [02.20.12]
Intruder assaults, kills homeowner on Grizzly Peak [02.19.12]

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  • MFox327

    Zachary Running Wolf? Really?

  • Loki

    Written questions on cards?  Really?  Weingraf needs to go.

  • BerkeleyPoster

    Is this guy really a native american?  

  • Meliflaw

     I’ve no idea. My impression is that he is simply a native jerk who seeks the spotlight.

  • The Sharkey

    As a professional trouble-maker and champion of dumb causes, he’s got a reputation to uphold.

  • berkeleyhigh1999

    I wonder if the 1-3 murders a year in South Berkeley would ever get this much attention.

  • free2think

    http://blog.sfgate.com/crime/2012/03/09/angry-meeting-over-berkeley-hills-slaying/?tsp=1

    Angry meeting over Berkeley hills slaying

    Tempers
    flared Thursday night at a packed town-hall meeting in Berkeley at
    which Police Chief Michael Meehan told residents his department had
    responded properly last month to the slaying of a hills resident
    bludgeoned with a ceramic pot.

    Some of the 250 people in attendance at the Northbrae Community
    Church chafed when they were told that they had to submit their
    questions on written cards. At one point, a man stood up and said, “This
    is not a dialogue. It’s a monologue.” That prompted City Councilwoman
    Susan Wengraf, who had called the meeting, to respond that she had never
    advertised the session as a dialogue.

    Others, like Bob Hink, told city officials that the department wasted
    “precious time” Feb. 18 because a dispatcher had told an officer not to
    respond to several nonemergency calls, including one from Peter Cukor
    reporting a trespasser on his property.

    About 15 minutes after that call, Cukor’s wife phoned 911 to report he was being attacked. Cukor, 67, was beaten to death with a ceramic pot
    by a man reportedly diagnosed five years ago with paranoid
    schizophrenia. The suspect, 23-year-old Daniel Jordan DeWitt, was
    arrested that night.

    Police initially said Cukor had reported finding a trespasser near
    his garage and that he had sounded calm in his call to a dispatcher. But
    a subsequent police statement said Cukor had reported seeing DeWitt
    inside, and not just near, his garage.

    That distinction could have meant the difference between classifying
    Cukor’s call as a “suspicious person,” which is how it was reported, and
    a burglary in progress, sources said. It’s possible officers would have
    responded faster to a burglary report.

    In an interview, Lt. Andrew Greenwood said, “It doesn’t make a
    difference to our appraisal that the call was handled appropriately.” He
    would not comment on the exchange between Cukor and the dispatcher.

    At the meeting, Meehan rejected suggestions that the department had
    botched its response. Although a team of officers was being deployed to
    handle a forthcoming Occupy protest march, a second team was available
    to respond to emergency calls, he said.

    “We had a capacity to answer emergency calls all night long,” Meehan
    said. “We’ve done a review of what other agencies do and how they
    prioritize their calls to see if somehow we’re doing something that’s
    outside of the norm, and to this point we haven’t found anything.”

    Cukor called police on a nonemergency line at 8:45 p.m. Sounding
    calm, he said he believed he had shooed the intruder away from his home
    on Park Gate near Tilden Park, but asked for police to come quickly to
    make sure, sources said. DeWitt told Cukor he was looking for his fiancee, although he is not engaged, his family said.

    Wengraf said she had reviewed a portion of a transcript of Cukor’s
    call and that he had said to a dispatcher, “There’s a gentleman hanging
    around. He seems very spacey.”

    Sgt. Mary Kusmiss, a department spokeswoman, has declined to release a
    trancript or tape of calls from the home, saying they are “evidence of a
    crime.”

    But a recording of police radio transmissions shows
    that at about 8:57  p.m., Officer Jerome Cobert offered to respond to
    several reports he had noticed on his patrol-car computer, including
    Cukor’s call. A dispatcher told him “no” because the department was
    deploying a contingent of officers to monitor an Occupy protest march
    that would be coming into the city from Oakland later that night.
     

  • BHills

    Obviously not.  A barber was killed elsewhere in town just before the killing up here.  What more have you heard about that?  (Please forgive me if my details are a bit off.  I haven’t seen much press coverage.)

  • BHills

    What about these other features of the meeting?

    Just Districts 5 & 6?  Do others in Berkeley care about their first responders as much as I assume they do?

    Nobody from the Fire Department?  Ensuring that there is someone at the fire stations at all times is the one rational thing that we can do in response to this tragedy.  (When I spoke with Susan on this subject, she expressed frustration that nobody from the Fire Department participated in the meeting!)

    Neither Capitelli nor Wengraf wanted to discuss the idea of keeping staff at fire stations.  Capitelli told me that it was too expensive.  He asked me if I was willing to pay for it.  I am.  I asked him how much it would cost.  His first answer was too much.  Then he started mumbling numbers and said he would figure it out.  It was clear to me that his mindset (were he actually to follow through) would be to prove that this staffing is “too expensive.”  Obviously, he did not consult the Fire Chief on this question before he gave his answer.

    Council Member  Wengraf said “If there is a villian in Cukor murder it is mental Health system.”  She then announced her intention to introduce a measure to Berkeley City Council to adopt Laura’s Law.  Finally, she allowed her chosen expert on mental health to speak.  (The only audience member afforded this privilege.) He stated that Laura’s Law does NOT work because it lacks an enforcement mechanism.

    Council Member  Wengraf told me with evident indignation and disbelief that the suspect had been seen in the Park Hills area earlier in the day and nobody called the police to report him.

    It’s fine to say that Wengraf has to go.  But who among us is smart enough to do the job in a way that satisfies us and yet is willing actually to compete for the job and to serve?

  • John Holland

    This is a good article, but two things aren’t clear for me:

    1. Was there ever a verdict on Occupy’s impact on the police response?

    2. The head of neighborhood watch seemed satisfied with BPD’s response. Was this the general sentiment at the end of the evening?

    While personally I think BPD did a great job, there has also been very fair criticism here on Berkeleyside in great contrast to the tone of this story.

    While these two points are resolved in mind, I don’t think they’re resolved for many commenters here on Berkeleyside who have raised some very good points and asked some very good questions.

  • John Holland

    This article has a pretty different tone than the Berkeleyside article above.

  • free2think

     Laura’s Law has been successfully enacted in other counties. It targets a particular set of treatment needs. Alameda County social services have internal problems sufficient enough to challenge any programs success.

    There is a place in a comprehensive set of tools for  Laura’s Law, it is outpatient care not institutionalization, conservator-ship is used for that purpose,  which is also in need of legal review and revisions.

  • free2think

    http://www.eastbayexpress.com/ebx/emergency-call/Content?oid=3139339

    Contrasting professional perspectives about the resistance by Alameda County  to enact  2002 law explained in EBX story Feb 29, 2012

  • free2think

     You write “Council Member  Wengraf told me with evident indignation and disbelief
    that the suspect had been seen in the Park Hills area earlier in the day
    and nobody called the police to report him.”

    Last night TV news reports of the meeting included an interview with a  hills resident  who explained being the victim of an attack a few hours before the meeting, he described fighting off the young man. I wonder if that incident was reported to police.

  • eeky

    I am very surprised and concerned that the Fire Station would not have one person there manning the station at all times. I always thought there would be someone in the firehouse at all times. I think this should be addressed. This murder is a real tragedy and a very bad case of bad timing all around…my sincerest condolences to the Cukor family. 
    I do also worry about Lt. Greenwoods comments about calling the non-emergency number and 911, that they are handled by the same dispatcher who uses their discretion as to the validity of a 911 call in particular. This
    is very troubling as I would imagine everyone who calls 911 believes they are given top priority no matter the reason for the call. I think this should be investigated.

  • Heather_W_62

    That barber was also a well-loved and respected member of the community, both black and white. But no, we’ve not heard a *whisper* of a follow-up. 

  • PragmaticProgressive

    The Tribune is reporting that Chief Meehan sent an armed sergeant to a reporter’s home in the middle of the night to insist on changes to his write up following this meeting.

    That is both ridiculous and scarily intimidating.  It also puts this remark by the Chief into a very different light.

    “We are going to do a much better job of getting information out,” Meehan continued. “It’s not the media’s job to have to dig the information out of us.”

    I read originally took this to mean that BPD would strive for greater transparency, of the sort that was NOT in evidence in the slow reveal of facts in the Woolsey shooting.  But I never imagined that “getting information out” would include sending armed sergeants to a reporter’s home to press for changes to a story.

    Yes, yes, I’m sure she didn’t threaten him or his family.  But there’s no question that Meehan’s action — and Sgt. Kusmiss’ willingness to comply — approaches censorship by intimidation.   Any other public figure would have to pick up the phone or write in requesting corrections or the opportunity to respond.  

    At a minimum, this showed incredibly poor judgment on the Chief’s part, and I say that as someone who has been appreciative of much that BPD does.  This, however, is indefensible.

  • berkeleykev

     I just saw that too.  That is completely unacceptable and may be an act which requires firing or resignation.  That is really, really bad.

    I’ve been publicly defending BPD, and hold them in very high regard (as opposed to other police departments), so do not take my condemnation lightly.  Go search any SFGate online article

    In fact, I commented on the SF Chronicle article (on SFGate) yesterday morning; disparaging the chronicle for misleading the public with its reporting.  I pointed out the very inaccuracy the chief was upset about, and pointed out that the linked source showed that exactly what had happened was very different than the headline and gist of the article.

    I can understand the chief’s frustration with the sensationalist and often misleading way the story has been handled.  But to send an officer to the reporter’s house (especially, but not only because it was late at night) is beyond the pale.  I don’t have much problem with him contacting the reporter by phone, although presumably that could be handled by the department’s information officers like Ms. Kusmiss.

    I think the minimum the chief could do at this point is to take an unpaid leave to recuperate and rethink his actions.  And this really might be the kind of thing he’ll have to resign over. 

    It’s a shame, I feel like BPD has generally been excellent under his watch, but this is really really bad.  I don’t know if the union allows him to take an unpaid leave, perhaps he could use all his sick days, or perhaps he could donate an equivalent amount of money to his pay to some charity if he takes a paid leave.  This requires more than an apology, and more than a couple weeks of paid leave.

  • Guest

    Absolutely OUTRAGEOUS!  This reeks of police state intimidation.  A knock on the door in the middle of the night?  What country are we living in?  Berkeley?  The home of Cop Watch, protest, civil disobedience & the Free Speech Movement?
    While this specific incident will eventually blow over and probably won’t force the police chief out of office, it points back to a greater, ongoing, more problematic situation where the ranks of the professional news media and reporters (what I called the Fourth Estate in a separate thread) are diminishing daily and the arrogance and stonewalling of public officials grows  commensurately more egregious by the day.
    In another thread, I questioned the capability of Berkeleyside and other community journalism forums to challenge the official narrative or to uncover hidden corruption, lies, falsehood and self-serving distortion on the part of public officials or certain prominent public figures (like Alice Waters & Co., for example).
    I guess we’ll know when Berkeleyside reporters or its community contributors are “getting hot” in their pursuit of the truth when it diverges sufficiently from the official narrative of events that a police Sargent is sent to knock on their door in the middle of the night and demands changes to their story or a retraction.
    And, in that last regard, I will add that while adding an opinion section to Berkeleyside may make it a little more interesting to peruse, I did feel that opening with self-serving op-eds from Mayor Bates and Superintendent Huyett shows  too cozy a relationship between this news forum and the pursuit of sometimes uncomfortable truths in our public sphere. 
    While I personally was no fan or supporter of the late Berkeley Daily Planet, Mayor Bates did famously claim that he did not even read what was then the only remaining community newspaper (we already know his relationship to the Daily Cal…).  The Planet, however imperfectly, did attempt to uncover and disclose various events and financial connections that the Mayor and his cronies clearly wanted out of the public eye.
    I think it’s fair and stands to reason that if Berkeleyside played a comparable role vis-a-vis the current Mayor and his administration or the BUSD, it’s unlikely that either Bates or Huyett would avail themselves of the opportunity to publish the inaugural op-eds in this forum.

  • http://berkeleyside.com Tracey Taylor

    Guest: The only thing stopping Berkeleyside from writing more investigative journalism is resources. We have a tiny staff and minuscule budgets. 

    Investigative stories that “uncover hidden corruption” take expertise, time and money to research and write. We have the former, but need more of the latter. 

    If readers want top-rate journalism they need to pay for it, just like they would pay for any high-quality product which is created through hard work. 

    Becky O’Malley would be the first to agree that advertiser support only goes so far. Just like the model of our partners KQED, or the traditional model of the newspaper subscription, we ask that our readers support us too by subscribing or donating. Then we can do more of the hard-hitting stories we love to do.

    To put it bluntly: citizens get the journalism they pay for :)

  • NBR

    Had you attended the meeting you would not have these questions.  Berkeleyside did a good, not perfect, reporting job and some other articles have been totally inaccurate.  The best article was written by Daily Cal.  There were maybe 4-6 people that were disappointed that they could not have a “dialogue” but after the meeting ended, I think, 99% of the attendees were more than satisfied.  Shirley Dean’s question was answered.  It would have been an out of control meeting if question cards had not been used.

  • PragmaticProgressive

    Good thoughts on the appropriate consequences.  I struggled with what a proper remedy here is, short of firing/resigning, though it may come to that.  Like you, I have been quite pleased with BPD under Meehan and so this is a serious disappointment.

    Paid leave should not be on the table.  

    The fact that Billy Keys got it was revolting.  So too was the recent revelation of Keys’ prior arrest for burglary, particularly in light of his role in thwarting BHS parents’ efforts to get him and the district to pay attention to the criminal records of students committing crimes on campus.  

  • NBR

    Of course all fire stations could have one person there at all times but I doubt that residents would agree to pay for it.

  • bgal4

    http://sanfrancisco.cbslocal.com/2012/03/08/at-meeting-berkeley-police-chief-defends-response-to-fatal-attack/

    Watch a Hill resident interview ed following the meeting describe being attacked by a mentally ill young man hours prior to Cukor homicide.

    This community needs an education about  the evolution (and political direction) of
    policing which has over many years created a de-emphasis on the detention of “suspicious people” in favor of a “call for service” operational platform.

    Meehan has been supportive of educating the public and the dept recently produced literature explaining how to report suspicious behavior and how the dept prioritizes CFS.

    But the problem of community mobilization and engagement continues, apparently no one on Bonar called in the craps game prior to the shooting, yet  shooting associated with crap games have been documented many times.

    Did this other victim of an attack by a mentally ill person wandering in the park hills area make a report?

    Did the other people who saw Dewitt wandering around make reports?

    SBCPC, ( an network of south Berkeley block captains ) met with the police dept starting in 2002 and into 2005. The meetings were held on a regular basis, facilitated by a BPD Capt with various city and county in attendance. We had important  discussions about community policy policy and practice, but ultimately  it was an exercise in futility, we hit a brick wall over and over again.

    Nothing will really evolve until the city political tactics change, the divide, marginalize, placate,and conquer approach is failing in this situation.

    I personally think we should support the Chief so he can do what he stated he would in 2010 which B-Side reported. http://www.berkeleyside.com/2010/01/28/when-we-mess-up-we-fess-up-michael-meehan-berkeleys-new-police-chief-is-sworn-in/

    And we should take a big picture view of how our public safety dollars are spent and educate the community about the real public safety threats we face based on evidence not speculations.

    Laura M.

  • berkeleykev

     Unfortunately paid leave seems to be the norm; look at Officer Pike and all the other bad actors in positions of authority.  But this will not just blow over.  The people of Berkeley take freedom of the press and free speech in general very seriously. 

    I also noticed that the Chronicle today linked to the Contra Costa Times story regarding the late night visit, and did not add any commentary of their own.  This should be a troubling sign for the chief- usually the Chronicle adds some sensationalist slant to linked stories of this nature (like the story about the meeting).  The fact that they have linked to the story without any commentary implies to me that they are considering legal action.

    I really think the chief needs to get in front of this.  More than an apology is required.  Perhaps paid leave explicitly to examine 1st amendment issues, with a personal donation to the ACLU from him?

    I recognize that many police departments would scoff at the notion of a very non-influential citizen such as myself throwing out disciplinary recommendations like these; but I am sincerely doing this out of goodwill and concern for the chief.  The best thing for him to do is not to hope it blows over, but to fess up, take responsibility and make real amends, of his own accord.

    Again, I am generally very supportive of the chief and of BPD.  I specifically took issue on his and the department’s behalf (as a citizen) on SFGate in the comments on the article in question.  I have defended BPD in the comments on numerous online articles at SFGate (under my same screen name, berkeleykev) going back to the Occupy protests, you can search it.  So I hope my outrage and disappointment here is seen as something beyond the normal “f the police” mentality. 

    If you’re losing me, chief, you’re in trouble- not because I matter as an influential person ( I don’t- I’m not) but because of the type of person I represent.

  • bgal4

    As one of the primary sources for the reporters writing for BDP on school safety, BUSD legal compliance and city public safety matters, I do not concur with your assessment.

    Your statement that this smacks of a police state is a bit hyperbole.

    The dynamics at play here are not that sinister, in fact predictable if you have a broad understanding of forces at play.

    Meehan blew it for sure, and has apologized, too bad this happened  after a text book perfect performance at the meeting which left the  city feeling off the hook since they appeared to answer everyone’s questions.

    The really important questions were not discussed at the meeting, the chief alluded to many of the underlying issues though.

    Folks need to take a big picture view if you actually want our city to be civil and constructive.

    I personally think Meehan deeply  cares about crime victims, in a city where the political powers that be do not.

    My family has been victimized by crime many times because of neighborhood we live in. I have assisted numerous victims for many years and worked on community policing directly.

    CopWatch, the PRC and BDP editor Becky  O’ Malley for that matter has made it very clear they do not care about the injustices we have experienced because it does not fit neatly into  their ideology.

  • Redasobky

    Perfect storm is the ultimate copout of the incompetents, and saying occupy was a distraction is absurd. I have lost confidence in this leadership and they should move on and allow us to find somebody who can perform without excuses. A man has been kiilled in his front yard after calling the police!!! what is left? after almost 40 years in the same house I still have dark police cars tailing me down to Solano from Keith ave to do silly checks and when it comes to when one needs them, excuses abound, is there no decency or accountability left, how many supreme failures does it take?

  • Redasobky

    Dear Mr. Flasher, your praise for the police chief sounds hollow and talk based, the nicest looking and acting person can also be incompetent, which is what is at issue, policing is about priorities and results, neither of which obtains here, on what basis do you recommend him except as an apologist for failure, too many these days, I am glad you didn’t say it was a perfect storm. could you have saved this victim if your neighborhood had a competent system of response?

  • bgal4

     And the fact that Keys and friends tried to have us parents arrested for being on campus.

  • BHills

    What is the basis for your doubt?  I would pay and I would think that everybody in town who realizes that the station can be un-staffed would willing pay.

  • BHills

    I attended the meeting and saw that very few people seemed likely to be ‘out of control.’  Most of them were out of control anyway.  Besides, there were police in the room.

    As far as I can tell, Capitelli and Wengraf did not want audience members (except for the doctor that did not support Wengraf’s position on Laura’s Law) to speak because they did not want to discuss the REAL issues raised by the killing of Mr. Cukor and because they have no REAL solutions to put forth.

    PS  Not everybody who expected and preferred to be able to speak were as vocal as the man who stood up and attempted to address Wengraf on the subject.  For example, I did not engage in this dialogue even thought I thought it was a terrible mistake to stop the audience members from asking our own primary and any followup questions.

  • BHills

    Are you certain the took place in the hills and not downtown?

    This person being interviewed reported that the young man was accompanied by two young women who explained to him his attackers medical condition.  That seems inconsistent with the profile of the suspect in the Cukor case.

  • John Holland

    NBR wrote:

    Had you attended the meeting you would not have these questions. 

    Unfortunately, I was not able to attend, and I still feel like my questions aren’t answered. Let me rephrase them:

    1. Did neighbors reject the assertion that Occupy was responsible?
    2. Were neighbors satisfied that the police responded appropriately?

    Thanks!

  • John Holland

    Thanks for linking to this article, and your comments. Like you, I’m pretty OK, with BPD. Like you, I find this development very disappointing. It raises creepy questions, e.g. did they use police data to determine where Mr. Oakley lived in order to pay him the visit? That exhibits a little too much determination to influence the story.

  • John Holland

    Lately there’ve been a number of criticisms leveled to Berkeleyside, and it kind of bugs me. I’m not sure if some readers who are not familiar with Internet business models realize how awesome Berkeleyside is, and how hard they have to work to generate enough revenue to survive.

    First of all, as someone currently developing a startup in the news ecosystem, I can’t tell you how often I hold up Berkeleyside as a model example for the future of local/community journalism. I’ve talked to executive editors at BANG that are impressed and intimidated by the effort. I’ve showed it to countless VCs (explaining why it’s better than other local efforts.)

    Plus, do readers realize who these writers are? Berkeley is extremely lucky to have these experienced (renowned!) journalists jump into local journalism enthusiastically with both feet.

    Also, I have no idea how just three people have managed to generate such a robust news site about Berkeley. They seem to never sleep. And while we all wish they could dig deeper on every story, the reporting has gotten increasingly in-depth. And when they are not reporting, they are managing technical issues, and trying to earn revenue. I’d hire them, if they’d let me.

    Speaking of revenue, I highly doubt Berkeleyside is swimming in it. Looking at Berkeleyside’s pageviews, and considering typical CPMs my guess is that nobody’s getting rich publishing this site. It is truly a labor of love.

    Not to mention they put up with “enthusiastic” commenters like me.

    I think it’s totally fair to present Berkeleyside with a “wish list” of what you would like to see on the site. I agree, there’s a lot more I wish they could do. And I’ve asked followup questions that I felt were not included in articles myself. But, I don’t think it’s fair to criticize the effort considering the limited resources Berkeleyside has available. It takes time to develop an organisation like this.

    Finally, I’ve heard many opinions here on the limits of community journalism. I believe that excellent community journalism is only limited by the support of its community.

    Full Discosure: Berkeleyside gave my high school daughter a summer internship, so I do have a soft spot in my heart for them. Also, I’m a fan of bold, ambitious experiments on the Internet. Tying to re-imagine online local journalism for Berkeley in the 21st century definitely falls into that category.

    Very few people “do”. Most just comment.

  • a_cohen

    2 counties, since 2002? It has no teeth. Worthless Law.

  • BHills

    Please ignore the post below.  This one is corrected but I do not see how edit or delete the one that contains errors.

    Are you certain the attack took
    place near the Cukor home and not downtown?

    The person being interviewed reported that the young man who attacked him was
    accompanied by two young women who explained to him his attacker’s
    medical condition.  That (being with others) seems inconsistent with the profile of the
    suspect in the Cukor case.

     

  • bgal4

    The point was not to prove or suggest the person was  Dewitt , I asked if he  reported the incident. Dewitt is a very friendly person I have met him, it is entirely possible that two young woman were with him.

    Berkeley has a CFS policing operations,  the police do not detain suspicious persons unless there is report or a recent crime in the area.

    Folks need to realize that  local politics dictate how policing operates, which is not necessarily the most effective approach.

    The Chief made several statements inferring as much.

    Again, did this victim make a report? And did the residents who saw Dewitt wandering around earlier call it in?

    Did residents on Bonar St call in the craps game prior to the drive by shooting?

    If officers were allowed to use tasers do you think one officer could be responded?  Without other means of restraining an violently resistant person BPD officers use the swarm technique, which takes 3 officers to manage properly and avoid a PRC complaint. This is why the official policy is to send 2 patrols cars to any unknown or potential violent incident. And why officers and dispatch will send 3 patrols cars in many situations.
    Watch Telegraph Ave  police responses and learn how the police operate in our special city.

  • bgal4

     See Chronicle excellent expose Sunday March 11 calling on all remaining counties to enact the 2002 Laura’s Law.

    Ask yourself, why is AC director misrepresenting what and who the law is intended to assist, answer= fear of accountability 

  • Momo

    I wish the police had put as much effort forth in preventing Peter Cukor’s senseless murder as they did twhen thwarting the follow up story. Talk about priorities…
    .

  • bgal4

    Meehan MISREPORTED  during this meeting crime was down by 40%, the actual number he reported to council a few days earlier is 28% decline.