Berkeley police chief resigns; no reason provided

Berkeley Police Chief Michael Meehan said the public still has ample time to offer feedback. Photo: Emilie Raguso
Berkeley Police Chief Michael Meehan said the public still has ample time to offer feedback. Photo: Emilie Raguso

Berkeley Police Chief Michael Meehan has resigned following reports surfaced by Berkeleyside last month of turmoil within the department and extensive criticism by officers of the chief.

Meehan resigned after nearly seven years, and Capt. Andrew Greenwood will now take the helm of the department as acting chief, according to a memo from the city manager to the Berkeley City Council dated Wednesday, Sept. 21. Greenwood, a Berkeley native, has been at BPD for 31 years. (Scroll down to see the memo.)

No explanation has been provided as to the reason for Meehan’s departure. He lives in Berkeley with his family and has a son in Berkeley schools. Many thought he would continue in his role as chief until retirement, despite the recent criticism.

Greenwood said Wednesday the resignation “came as a complete surprise” to him, and that it had been a “whirlwind five hours of figuring out” all of the logistics of the transfer of command.

“I’m sure it was a really difficult decision for him and his family,” he said. “I was asked yesterday afternoon if I would be acting chief and I agreed to.”

It is unclear exactly when Meehan put in his resignation, but he was not present for the six-month crime report to the Berkeley City Council on Tuesday evening, and no city officials asked where he was. It’s a significant meeting that he has rarely, if ever, missed in the past.

Just after 11:30 a.m. Wednesday, Meehan posted his resignation letter on Twitter.

“While there is no good time to leave an organization you have such respect and admiration for, there is a right time and I believe, after discussing with my family, the time is now,” he wrote. See the full letter below.

On Twitter, Meehan wrote, “Thank you Berkeley! It has been an honor. My family and I are grateful.”

Chief Meehan's resignation letter.
Chief Meehan’s resignation letter.

Greenwood said he is enormously proud of the department and believes it is “well set to move forward as a team.” He said it wasn’t his place to comment on the reason for Meehan’s departure.

Mayor Tom Bates, in a statement released Wednesday afternoon, said he was grateful for Meehan’s service. He credited Meehan for putting in place “several innovative policing strategies… including Fair and Impartial Policing training, Crisis Intervention Training, increased transparency, and genuinely working to improve relations between the Department and the Community.”

“This is a tough time for policing across the nation and Berkeley will continue to look for innovative ways to address current policing issues,” Bates said. “I am confident that Acting Chief Greenwood will bring a wealth of experience and skill set that will serve the community and the Department well.

Officers interviewed earlier this year by Berkeleyside criticized the chief’s leadership, saying he was slow to make decisions and spent too much time on community endeavors outside the department. They said an effort to reorganize the department’s beat structure had not worked, and that Meehan had not managed staffing well, allowing the number of officers to fall too low. They told Berkeleyside they also felt Meehan was not a strong enough advocate for officers’ needs and interests.

BPD surveyed officers earlier this year as part of a strategic planning process.

The survey responses included nearly 80 pages of written comments, many of which focused on the perceived failings of the chief. Berkeleyside requested those survey responses under the California Public Records Act, but the city denied the request and said the documents are exempt from disclosure.

Read more about those concerns.

Berkeleyside will continue to seek additional information.

The complete memo

Dee Williams-Ridley, Berkeley city manager, sent the following memo to the Berkeley City Council by email Wednesday at about 9:10 a.m.

I want to let you know that I have accepted the resignation of Berkeley Police Chief Mike Meehan,
and I have appointed Capt. Andrew Greenwood to be the Acting Police Chief.

We are grateful for Chief Meehan’s nearly seven years of service to Berkeley. During that time,
the department has grown in many ways. The Berkeley Police Department (BPD) is believed to
have been only the second agency in the State of California to adopt and train officers in Fair and
Impartial Policing – an effort to reduce bias in law enforcement. BPD was the first agency in
Alameda County to implement Crisis Intervention Training (CIT), which trains officers to better
assist individuals with a mental illness and those experiencing a psychiatric crisis. Every single
Berkeley police officer has been trained in CIT. Over the last several years, BPD has also
increased transparency by posting 30 years of crime data as well as department policies, arrests,
bookings, calls for service, pedestrian and traffic stops on the City’s website.

Acting Chief Greenwood has served the community for nearly 31 years as part of the Berkeley
Police Department. He has held a variety of assignments in the department, including five years
in the Special Enforcement Unit’s Special Investigations Bureau, the Communications Center,
and the Department’s Field Training Program. As a Lieutenant, he has served in the Community
Services Bureau, and worked as a Patrol Watch Commander. As a Captain, he oversaw the
Investigations Division and, most recently, the Operations Division. He is a graduate of the
Sherman Block Supervisory Leadership Institute, POST Command College and the PERF Senior
Management Institute for Police. A lifelong resident of Berkeley, he has strong relationships in
our community. Chief Greenwood’s wealth of experience, combined with his commitment and
dedication to the department and to the community, will serve us well.

At Tuesday night’s Special City Council Meeting on crime, we saw an array of examples
highlighting BPD successes, from a drop in Part 1 crimes to strategies that the department has
developed to address emerging issues. This success is built from teamwork – a reflection of the
commitment and skills of our sworn officers of every rank and staff throughout the department. I
am extremely confident that Acting Chief Greenwood and the men and women of the Police
Department will move the department forward and continue providing excellent service to the
Berkeley community.

Have a question about a local public safety incident? Write to Photographs and videos are always appreciated. This story was updated after publication to include comments from Chief Andrew Greenwood, Mayor Tom Bates and former BPD Chief Michael Meehan.

Officers question leadership of Berkeley police chief (08.31.16)

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