Hunt for police chief’s son’s iPhone cost $740 in overtime

Berkeley Police Chief Michael Meehan: at center of new storm

It cost the city of Berkeley about $740 in overtime pay to have 10 detectives search for Berkeley Police Chief Michael Meehan’s son’s missing iPhone.

Three detectives and a sergeant from the property crimes unit put in two hours of overtime each when they scoured a north Oakland neighborhood for the stolen phone on January 11, according to Sgt. Mary Kusmiss, the BPD’s public information officer. Detectives get paid $90.26 an hour in overtime pay and sergeants get $98.63 an hour. The figure does not include the regular pay for those investigating, which included members of the Drug Task Force. All together, Berkeley police officers spent about 10 hours collectively investigating this crime, said Kusmiss.

The news that a large contingent of police was sent to look for Meehan’s son’s iPhone has raised new questions among city officials about the chief’s judgment. In March, Meehan sent Kusmiss to the home of an Oakland Tribune reporter in the middle of the night to ask for a change in a story that had been posted online.

“I told the city manager that in my book you can make a mistake once, but twice, then I get very concerned,” said City Councilmember Susan Wengraf. “I was hoping this would not be a pattern. I hope this is not a pattern.”

Wengraf said she put in a call Tuesday morning to Interim City Manager Christine Daniel to ask about the iPhone investigation. She said she is holding off judgment until she gets more information and finds out the context of the decision to send 10 detectives to search for the Chief son’s iPhone. Perhaps it was part of a larger investigation into the rampant thefts of phones at Berkeley High, she said, although she acknowledged that might be wishful thinking.

Councilmember Laurie Capitelli said he has been focused on tonight’s special council meeting on the West Berkeley Project and has not yet had a chance to call the city manager about the incident, but he plans to.

“I do want to know more about it,” said Capitelli. “It certainly raises some questions.”

In a press release issued today, BPD stated that Chief Meehan was not the one instigating the search for the iPhone. “Chief Meehan did not order anyone to investigate,” read the statement. The release also addresses the question as to why Oakland police were not alerted about the investigation. “The team did not call the City of Oakland Police Department (OPD), although this is a courtesy and not required,” the statement says.

Tim Kaplan, President of the Berkeley Police Association, which represents the majority of the police officers in the department, said the BPA would not comment on the iPhone matter. The BPA did call for an independent investigation into Meehan’s March 9 decision to send Kussmiss to the home of Oakland Tribune reporter Doug Oakley.

None of the 10 detectives involved in the January 11 investigation filed a police report about their search, “an oversight that came to our attention when researching your questions,” Kusmiss said on Monday. In today’s release, BPD says filing a report for investigations “is recommended”.

Berkeleyside had been tipped off about the investigation by people concerned about what they see is a pattern of poor judgment by the chief. The Berkeley Police Association, which is involved in contract negotiations with the city, was not the source of the leak.

Officers inside the department said they do frequently investigate stolen iPhones and even search for them soon after they are taken. But a few officers were surprised by the amount of manpower devoted to this particular investigation.

Berkeley police chief sent 10 officers on hunt for son’s iPhone [05.21.12]
Berkeley will spend up to $50K after police chief blunder [05.18.12]
Berkeley City orders investigation into police chief [03.16.12]
Questions remain about Berkeley police chief’s actions [03.11.12]
At 12:45 am police chief demands reporter make changes [03.10.12]

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  • TizziLish

    I read a story very recently in the SF Chronicle about a woman whose iphone was stolen. Shortly after the theft, she got a call from the thief who offered to sell it back to her. She called the cops and the SF PD said they would not touch her problem with a ten foot pole, and advised her to forget the phone.  I think this is typical response.  It just isn’t possible for police departments these days to dedicate time to pursuing the recovery if lost  or stolen cell phones, Kindles, iPads, etc. As a society we are not prepared to invest in that much staff time and even if we did invest, the odds of success are extremely slime.

    Sadly, this is a crime of opportunity and the criminals calculate well — it is a low risk crime.

  • TizziLish

    This story might be unrelated but I’ll share it, hoping it illustrates part of modern reality.

    In an airport a few thousand miles from the Bay Area, I found a ‘dead’ iPad sitting on a chair in an empty gate at an airport.  I was past security but not yet in an area designated to any particular airlines so I didn’t know what airlines was involved. I got the impression someone had found the iPad, and used it until it ran out of juice and then left it on a trash bin.

    I had sat down for quiet, hours before my flight. I didn’t turn it into the lost and found at the airport because I had just read an article about how airport lost and founds are inundated with lost tech toys. It is impossible to dedicate lots of staff to tracking down owners — and tracking down owners is not all that easy.

    And keep in mind that people don’t know where they lost their tech tool. Was the iPad I found lost in a plane headed to that airport? Or did the person who had placed it on the trash bin found it in another airport? and on what airline?

    Plus I had a plane to catch. So I took the iPad, put it in my bag and decided I’d call the owner when I got home. First I had to figure out how to charge the thing, which involved buying the right accessory. Once charged, I learned the iPad was password protected — so whoever had abandoned it on the trash bin had probably been unable to use it. I called Apple to give them the serial number and offered to mail it to the rightful owner. Apple said “Congratulations you are now the proud owner of a new, used iPad 2”. They offered to tell me how to restore the original software, which would destroy any identfying info, plus protect the person’s financial data if any was on there. I was on the phone with Apple for hours. Apple refused to hep me connect tothe owner, even when I offered to mail the iPad to Apple so they could forward it.

    I think Apple takes this position because it would take tons of employee hours to deal with all the lost iphones and ipads.

    Maybe the moral is:  carry good insurance for your technology, password protect it to protect your financial data and accept that sometimes we lose stuff.

    Yeah, now I have a used iPad. I haven’t used it. I don’t really have a need for one.

    For all I know, this iPad was stolen from the owner. Or someone just found it left behind on a plane. I have read maintenance staff often steal such things left behind.

    And lost and founds, for airports and airlines routinely donate unclaimed tech toys to nonprofits.

    It’s a fact of life, losing stuff.

    But having the chief of police mobilize the police force for his kid is a very very different story — and it is immoral, wrong, and I can’t believe Meehan hasn’t been fired.

  • Heather_W_62

    Yesterday I was certain Meehan had acted out of rage because surely his son must have been robbed face to face, which still didn’t warrant his action. But….

    That the cell phone was left in an unlocked locker makes doesn’t make this “less forgiveable” it makes it outrageous and an insult to any of us who have had our car broken into and something stolen out of it only to have the attending officer (IF one actually shows up rather than takes a report on the phone) tell us to be more careful about locking the car in the future.

  • Heather_W_62

    Or, as I said above, the cop gives you a friendly lecture about leaving valuables in your LOCKED car. 

  • The Sharkey

    As someone who has had my car broken into and gotten the same non-response from BPD, I have to agree. The more we learn about this the more it seems like a clear abuse of power.

  • Heather_W_62

    Yes, the moral of the story is: kids do stupid things like leave their crap laying around and losing it. Most normal parents would actual lecture, dole out some light punishment or otherwise use the kids stupidity as a learning moment.  That’s called Parenting 101. 

  • bgal4

     Unforgivable is right.

    Any anonymous posters here supporting Meehan  should be suspected of SPIN control.

    read the Tribune coverage, reporters asked about this incident 10 weeks ago.

  • bgal4

    Extortion of personal property is a secondary crime on top of the theft.
    In a classroom setting it is EASY to stop both of these crime and its social pathology without the police involvement.

  • Heather_W_62

    Your daughter’s experience is pretty typical, unfortunately. BHS security see phone theft as being normal and the fault of the kid who brought the phone to school. Things aren’t going to change until thieves start being prosecuted for their crimes, and BUSD isn’t going to bother with that. 

  • Heather_W_62

    $740 is pocket change to someone who makes $300K a year. 

  • iicisco

    I think it’s fair enough to say some of the people complaining are only looking to call foul for misappropriation of public funds. 

  • cl3

    >None of the 10 detectives involved in the January 11 investigation filed a police report about their search, … BPD says filing a report for investigations “is recommended”.

    Investigators aren’t required to file reports or account for their time? How does anyone know what’s going on then?

    This is blatant corruption, as well as mismanagement. The chief needs to be removed immediately. No reports filed? It’s clear BPD is poorly managed and can not be trusted, except to protect itself. This is an ongoing theme. I suppose the system will correct itself when it runs out of money. That won’t be long now.

  • I’m Jes’ Sayin’

     Thanks for this information.

  • BHills

     I am deeply sorry for the loss of your family’s friend.

  • Heather_W_62

    Putting that 10 officer involvement into perspective: sending two officers to Mr. Cukor’s house would have prevented his death.  Really, let’s think about how our resources are used. 

  • Brandi Murphy

    if that’s what the detectives make, I’m sure he makes a shit-ton more, so maybe he could pay these guys out of his pocket for this chicanery? 

  • cc<3

     I’m sorry to hear about your friend too. <3

  • Danny Postalot

    Yes this is rediculous, but this is also the smallest amount of corruption / misuse of taxpayer dollars I have ever heard of.  Perhaps that just speaks to how bad it is / how cynical I’ve become.

  • Thatoneguy

    Kid shoulda downloaded the app Prey. I tracked my phone to the front door of the thief with it…

  • cockface

    Blame Occupy.