Berkeley police officers promoted in public ceremony

A police color guard stands attention at the entrance to the promotion ceremony. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel

Four officers from the Berkeley Police Department were promoted in a ceremony at Berkeley Repertory Theater on Tuesday, only the second time officers have ever been promoted in public.

Four former police chiefs, a number of city officials, off-duty cops, and dozens of friends and family gathered at the theater to watch as two officers became sergeants, one sergeant became a lieutenant, and a lieutenant became a captain.

“As August Vollmer (Berkeley’s first police chief and a pioneer in the field) once said, ‘it is by developing people that we make progress in our society,” Police Chief Michael Meehan said in his remarks to the crowd. “What was true then is true now.”

Berkeley Police Chief Michael Meehan promotes Amber Phillips to sergeant. Jeffrey Chu is promoted to sergeant, Edward Spiller is promoted to lieutenant, and Andrew Greenwood is promoted to captain. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel

Meehan said it is not easy to become a Berkeley police officer. Many apply, but few are accepted.

“Harvard has a higher acceptance rate than does the Berkeley Police Department,” he said.

Officer Amber Phillips, who joined the force in 2004, was promoted to sergeant. Officer Jeffrey Chu, who joined the force in 2002, was also promoted to sergeant. Sgt. Edward Spiller was appointed to lieutenant. And Lt. Andrew Greenwood was appointed to captain.

Prior to 2010, the police department held its promotion ceremonies in Old City Hall, or in the basement of the department, said Meehan. When he became chief in 2009, he decided to make the ceremony open to the community.

“I felt it was important for the people in the community to know who is leading our department,” said Meehan. “I wanted to make it open to the public. It was a big change for us.”

The ceremonial cake. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel

City Councilmember Kriss Worthington said he thought public recognition of the police department was important and necessary. Before Meehan took over the department, Worthington had pressed the City Council to make the promotion ceremony open to all, but he could not garner sufficient support to make it happen, he said.

The Fire Department, which last year held a promotion ceremony at the Rep, will have its public promotion ceremony on Friday.

To find out about more events in Berkeley and nearby, visit Berkeleyside’s Events Calendar. We also encourage you to submit your own events.

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  • EBGuy

    Sergeant: $117,036.00

    Lieutenant: $140,364.00

    Captain: $160,812.00

    Starting salaries for Berkeley Police Officers ($92,832.00) are $20k
    more than offered by San Jose and Oakland.  Welcome to Harvard.

  • batard

    They should try getting their cakes at Masse’s, much better looking. 

  • The Sharkey

    Whats the justification for paying our Police Officers more than Oakland does? Seems like it ought to be the other way around.

  • batard

    overtime easily pushes those over $200K 

  • batard

    I’d rather have better cops than Oakland. 

  • The Sharkey

     Just because something is more expensive does not make it better.

  • Congratulations to all. We ask a lot of our police officers and they give a lot in return, thanks for all you do.

  • Berkeley Resident

    Agreed.  BPD has been very responsive to my needs every time I call and I have only had positive interactions with them and where I live we see a lot of Police Officers driving or walking through.  Thank you for everything you do.

  • Berkeley Resident

    Hopefully the extra pay means they have have good quality of life so we don’t have a revolving door of officers who work in Berkeley for a short time and move on.  I’d rather pay them a bit more and expect more of them and hope that they stay on and have long, productive careers in Berkeley.

  • batard

    Ditto.  Berkeley is a challenging city to be a cop to be sure.  My observation over the last 30 years is that BPD does a pretty good job of being responsive, and in finding the right balance in the majority of situations.  

  • batard

    To be clear, this problem is not unique to BPD or Berkeley.  Most cities around here end up paying a large portion of their PD and FD very, very well.

  • BHills

    Here are two possible reasons.  The first article reveals how much Oakland paid out in settlements and judgments for police abuse in the past ten years.  Hint:  $57M in 10 years compared to $8.6M for San Jose and $28M for San Francisco.  The populations are 400,000, 1M, and 800,000 respectively.

    The second is a column by Chip Johnson published by the Chronicle on Friday, January 27, 2012.  It describes why control of the OPD may be handed over to a court-appointed federal receiver by a federal judge.

    Oakland PD costs its residents a lot more than the pay their officers and staff.

  • Iceland_1622

    Expect more of these ‘photo opportunities’ and such as per the Chronicle’s article
    on the chiefs new PR firms attempt at enhancing damage control and spin and thus salvaging
    his career and image.

    A fellow lab researcher whispers that he heard that the chief was
    going to ‘attempt’ to get the entire staff to learn Ebonics to smooth things over with the
    citizenry of S. Berkeley and if that were not enough in-itself, would you believe a used ‘estate sale’
    jet pack from back-lot Hollywood that would enable him personally to fly into any urgent emergency
    in the hills, if his own staff all had prior commitments and entanglements.  Let’s see where this all
    goes next. I mean the bake sales and the boy scouts and school children etc.  A trip to review police
    training and tactics in Afghanistan would not be out of the question, nor would a personal joint appearance with Mr. Cruise at the Scientology Celebrity Center if push comes to shove.  It would look something
    like this I was told :

  • Bill

    Considering how vociferous and litigious our citizens are I think the up front costs are worth it.  If the police had even close to the same number of “issues” as Oakland the city would get sued out the wazoo.  That said, I think we need to take a hard look at retirement costs and contributions for public service employees cuz that’s going to really cost us down the line.

  • The Sharkey

    Interesting articles! Thanks for the links. I’ve only been living in the Bay Area for a relatively short amount of time, so I’m not as familiar with the history of different local cities as I’d like. Oakland’s relationship with their police force has always been “interesting” I guess.

    Is San Jose having the same problems?

  • The Sharkey


  • Iceland_1622

    Here is the San Jose Police Department in action ‘behind closed doors’ and from the inside.  We all have much to learn…

  • EBGuy

    A Sergeant in Albany makes around $20k less than in Berkeley.  I’m curious to find another municipality with our cost structure.

  • The Sharkey

    There may not be any. We seem to enjoy throwing a lot of additional money at any problem that isn’t infrastructure.