Police chief sent 10 officers on hunt for his son’s iPhone

BPD Chief Michael Meehan: was part of a 10-officer strong search for his son’s iPhone on Wednesday January 11

Late on the afternoon of January 11, an estimated ten Berkeley police officers, several of them from the department’s Drugs Task Force, knocked on front doors in a residential block in north Oakland. They were not looking for drugs. They were hunting for the missing iPhone of Berkeley Police Chief Michael Meehan’s teenage son.

Four of the officers worked overtime on the investigation, for which a report was never filed. The iPhone was not recovered, and the Oakland Police Department was not alerted about the search, which Meehan participated in.

Chief Meehan is currently at the center of an independent investigation into his decision to send an officer to the home of a reporter in the early hours of March 9 with a request to correct a story. That review will cost the city up to $25,000. In addition, Berkeley is spending $24,000 on an audit of the police department’s media relations policies.

On January 11 this year, Chief Meehan’s son, who attends Berkeley High School, came to the police station to say that that his iPhone had gone missing. He was upset, according to a witness.

The stolen iPhone was equipped with “Find My iPhone” tracking software, which provided its general location in real time and was accessible through Chief Meehan’s phone. Chief Meehan showed his phone with the in-progress tracking to a BPD property crimes detective sergeant.

The detective sergeant decided to take his team to try to locate it, according to BPD. As the signal was moving into the City of Oakland, the detective sergeant called the Drug Task Force to ask for additional assistance and members of that team offered to help, according the BPD.

A team of around 10 officers in several cars met up at parking lot in Oakland, according to an officer close to the incident, and then headed to the area of 55th Street and San Pablo Avenue in North Oakland where the signal had stopped updating its position.

Several police officers knocked on the front doors of homes on one residential block, but nobody was able to provide any useful information and the team ended the investigation. Four detectives extended their shifts for approximately two hours each, according to BDP, and the whole operation took about one and a half hours.

Berkeleyside submitted a request for information on the incident after being tipped off by a source, and BPD confirmed that the incident occurred and that no report was written, “an oversight that came to our attention when researching your questions.”

Berkeley police officers were dispatched to an area near 55th St and San Pablo Avenue in Oakland to hunt for the BPD Chief son’s iPhone

A police officer close to the incident, who asked to remain anonymous, said he was surprised at the response taken by the department to the missing iPhone. “I’m surprised at the manpower that was spent on the case,” he said. He added that it was strange that a report had not been filed. “If it had been anyone else they would have made a report,” he said.

BDP spokesperson Sgt. Mary Kusmiss said it is common for BPD officers “to actively investigate an in-progress tracking signal from a stolen electronic device. (e.g. laptops, smartphones and tablets).” She said: “These investigations can involve a Supervisor and multiple officers depending on the circumstances of the case and the location(s) of the signal(s).”

Asked why (five) drugs task force officers were brought in to the case, BDP said they are a pro-active street team that is part of the Investigations Division.

According to sources inside the department who asked not to be identified, many rank and file police officers are concerned with both this incident and the March 9 incident for which Meehan has apologized. They say there is widespread lack of confidence in the the Chief, who they see as being too self-involved and prone to such errors of judgment.

Chief Meehan has not responded to an email sent Friday, asking him to comment on the incident.

Berkeley will spend up to $50K after police chief blunder [05.18.12]
Berkeley police officer switching jobs in wake of scandal [04.19.12]
Police used internal database to get reporter’s address [03.28.12]
Officer put in awkward position by Berkeley police chief [03.16.12]
Berkeley City orders investigation into police chief [03.16.12]
Spotlight on City Manager’s response to Berkeley Police Chief [03.14.12]
Few comments on Chief Meehan before Council session [03.13.12]
Questions remain about Berkeley police chief’s actions [03.11.12]
At 12:45 am police chief demands reporter make changes [03.10.12]
Community gathers in wake of murder: quizzes Berkeley police [03.09.12]

To get breaking Berkeley news from Berkeleyside follow us on Twitter and on Facebook.

Print Friendly
Tagged , , , ,
Please keep our community civil. Comments should remain on topic and be respectful.
Read our full comments policy »
  • Berkeleyfarm

    Horses, but I honestly think that it could be any of the above.  It’s not like there’s border control at the Oakland-Berkeley city line and Berkeleyans don’t talk to Oaklanders.  And I really got the impression that Friends of Billy could get away with many things short of murder at BHS. 

  • Guest

    Mike, with due respect, it’s not so much that BUSD “surrendered to thug culture a long time ago” as tolerating “thug culture” supplies the warm bodies needed to prop up the funding stream. 

    Without the importation of large numbers of thugs, mainly from outside of Berkeley and enrolled on a dubious basis, the entire bureaucratic infrastructure of the BUSD would collapse for lack of a sufficiently large constituency.

    “Thugs” rule because thugs provide the body count to get the enrollement dollars.

  • The Sharkey

    When I hear hoofbeats in Berkeley, I think someone is probably doing a Monty Python “Search for the Holy Grail” reenactment. :-)

  • Papasteele

    While this is
    a tantalizing bit of news the article is two dimensional and really doesn’t do
    any credit to journalism. 


    Firstly, the
    iPhone is a computer first which could explain why the Chief Meehan tried to
    get it back ASAP.  When my teens iPhone stolen
    this year it felt like our home had been broken into and the family computer
    had been stolen. It was an invasion and we were in a very concerned about, passwords,
    account numbers and the security/privacy of our friends and family.  For the family of a public figure responsible
    for putting a lot of bad guys in jail security is not to be taken lightly.  I don’t know any details about this incident but
    with a moment’s thought one might wonder it the theft was targeted or who
    knows???  Maybe it was just a kid taking
    a phone, maybe it wasn’t.


    Secondly, I
    am so tired of yellow journalism that speculates on every bit of bad news that
    comes along to entertain the masses.  I
    would like to see Berkelyside step it up a bit. 
    I am not a writer but here is some content you could work with.


    My teen was
    beside themselves when their iPhone was stolen for all of the reasons I have
    mentioned plus it represented over a years’ worth of their personal savings.  Using “Find My iPhone” we located the iPhone
    in West Berkeley.  It was dark but we
    needed to try so we got in the car and drove to a pretty tough part of town.  Nearby we stopped two passing Berkeley Officers
    (Atari and his partner ?) and explained our situation.  My iPad only had wifi so the officer hooked it
    up to his cell phones hot spot (pretty cool).  It confirm the location of the missing iPhone’s
    a few blocks away.  The officers had us wait
    while they approached the house, talked to the residents and returned with our
    phone.  They were very professional and saved
    us from a lot of anxiety if not risk. 
    Somehow I didn’t see the story in the headlines.


    I do not know
    Michael Meehan well but I have met him and his family and they seem like very reasonable,
    caring people.  I doubt he is the person
    the media is portraying.  I challenge
    Berkeleyside to work on putting stories in context at the risk of losing
    readers unwilling to turn a page.  If the
    media isn’t enlightening it is misleading. 
    Track down officers Atari and (?) and give them credit the recognition
    they deserve.  Let them educate the
    readers how important it is to load the “Find my iPhone” and what the
    risks are when a phone goes missing.  Let
    Berkeley know that they have some great officers even if they don’t make the

  • Tomales Bay

    While I too think the council needs to reconsider keeping Meehan on the job, we also need to remember what this hire will cost all taxpayers–I’m sure there will be a huge payout for breaking Meehan’s contract, plus the $50000 already allocated for various reviews associated with the Chief’s behavior.  Then there’s the lawsuit that the city will probably face from the Cukor’s.  What makes one believe that this mayor and council are capable of finding the right replacement?  Meehan did slash the police overtime budget and hence is unpopular with the union and the officers.  Where do you think the “leaks” are coming from.

  • Anonymous

    Sorry but I don’t believe your story. If you were so concerned about the data and had Find My Phone setup why didn’t you just wipe the data remotely? Let me guess, no police report was filed?

  • Susan Solomon

    Note that the article points out that ‘many rank and file police officers’ . .’ say there is a widespread lack of confidence in the chief, who they see as being too self-involved and prone to such errors.’  It seems pretty incredible to me how open the rank and file officers are being about this- that is a good sign as far as I’m concerned. I moved out here in ’64 from Florida, where my police dept in Gainesville was famous for supporting lynchings. ‘Self-involved’ is not the bad rap you usually hear about police chiefs, it could be worse, (graft, corruption, prostitution, secret beatings, organized crime rings etc,) though I agree with all the criticism anyway, esp with the lack of police concern for student on student crime at Berkeley High. 

    BH is a totally mixed situation – as the parent of five, I totally sympathize with anyone whose child is beaten and robbed – I’ve been there. But when we last visited G’ville, FL – a few years ago, and my black child tried to go to school there, they were still patting down students who happened to have their hand in their pockets while visiting the office. And making them spread their legs etc – this was routine. Yes. Especially black students. One day was enough for us. We cancelled our plans to try going ‘home’ again, and rushed back to Berkeley.

  • SKaufmann

    I do not think two lapses in judgment can fairly be called “a pattern.”  Wouldn’t the pattern be all the other days of his tenure when he probably demonstrated far better judgment?  Yes, these two incidents are certainly “unbecoming of someone in his position,” and it’s really unfortunate they happened.  But compared to crooked cops elsewhere, or chiefs who intimidate rather than lead, or chiefs who sit behind their desks all day – let’s admit the man is most of the time doing a pretty decent job. 

  • 3rdGenBerkeleyan

     In the past BHS has not wanted BPD to offer sevices BHS does not want BPD in their business
    This has been proven in the past by BHS with holding info from BPD…BTW this has been documented by many sources BUSD wants to keep their heads in the sand. part of the problem is none of the school officials have children in BUSD so it doesn’t effect them personally!

  • PragmaticProgressive

    You’re aware that BHS has had multiple guns-at-school incidents in the last two years?  And that the school declined to follow some of the measures BPD recommended to ensure safety?  I don’t believe pat downs for pocketed hands was on the list, but my point is that the absence of security measures do not mean that security is assured.  Thug culture is a very real dimension of BUSD and as someone wrote above, the District has apparently decided to accept it.

  • bgal4

     This was a theft from an unlocked gym locker, that is like leaving your pack on a pack bench.

    I can guarantee you that NO other BHS student has had the assistance of 10 well paid BPD officers to help track down their phone lost from negligence on their part.

    I did not understand how this theft occurred until I read the Oakland Tribune coverage an hour ago.

    This is most definitely preferential treatment, unwarranted, and violates the intention of the agreement made between the police, schools and community last year. Campus robberies are referred to police but on campus theft is the domain of school security.

  • dianarossi

    Well, my daughter’s iPhone was stolen this week, during passing period — taken from the side pocket of her bag in the overly crowded hallways at Berkeley HIgh. We contacted the police and also used Track My Phone and found a location for the stolen phone — just 3 blocks from my home! I walked by the place, but was counseled by the police NOT to make contact. I did not think it too wise, either, to try to knock on this door. The police,
    one officer, called me back but this was about two hours later. By this time the phone had migrated to South Hayward. I was in contact with the officer about two other times that evening to give him this info, but I can assure you that no one did what they did for the Police Chief’s son. Yes, this was preferential treatment, and wrong that we pay for special

    services for some individuals, but not for others.

  • bgal4

    Did the cops locate the phone and the thief?

  • dianarossi

    No, they did not. And I have the feeling that they won’t. The officer said that they would send someone to the first location, in Berkeley, to check it out and that they would as a courtesy request that Hayward police do the same, but I was also told, (after the signal was last seen in South Hayward), that it would be best to erase the phone.

  • bgal4

    Sorry about the loss Diana. Next time I would suggest you notify dispatch you are heading over to the thief’s house to confront them, if the cops are concerned with your safety they should send a patrol car now. I would follow up with superiors on this.

  • dianarossi

    Thanks for the advice. Much appreciated. The phone was a special “Sweet Sixteen” gift, so we were all bummed. I am upset that there are kids at Berkeley High who feel that they can get away with this kind of behavior. There are LOTS of thefts there. And they seem to take place in many different kinds of situations, not just in the hall. For example, recently, music students performing for other classmates have had to worry about thefts of personal belongs occurring backstage. What a stinky environment. And what message are we teaching the kids who manage to get away with stealing? For what kind of future are we preparing them?

  • bgal4

    If you daughter has any idea who took it she could offer to buy it back. As you probably know plenty of phones and mp3 players are stolen for the purpose of extorting cash from the victim.

    If Scuderi would authorize searches the messages at BHS would change from
    “whatever you can get away with” to shame on you.