Category Archives: Police
More than six years after taking the helm of the Berkeley Police Department, Chief Michael Meehan is facing serious criticism from within his own ranks, according to two internal emails he sent to employees earlier this month and numerous interviews with BPD staffers.
The criticisms focus on weak leadership, low morale, insufficient staffing and inconsistent communication. They were spelled out in surveys from 134 people, just over half the department, that included nearly 80 pages of written comments. Much of that focused on the chief.
“That direct feedback tells me that I am failing some members of this organization,” Meehan wrote in an Aug. 11 email to BPD employees. “That is unacceptable.”
The comments are “a strong wake-up call” about what many characterized as a “lack of leadership and clear vision for our agency,” the chief wrote. He sent the email, entitled “Priorities and Commitment,” at about 10:10 p.m. after two long days of involved discussions with his leadership team.
The survey responses reportedly included scathing critiques of Meehan’s leadership style, along with other frustrations faced by the rank and file. The results have not been made public — and Meehan says they won’t be — but the chief’s email messages about those responses offer a rare glimpse into the department’s inner workings.
Morale inside the department has sunk to what may be an all-time low, some officers have told Berkeleyside, and that stems largely from what many have said is the failure of the chief to advocate effectively for what his officers want. Berkeleyside has granted those officers anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly on behalf of the department.
The chief’s emails were also shared with Berkeleyside by a BPD staffer on condition of anonymity. Meehan provided additional context regarding the messages, as well as staff concerns, during a lengthy conversation with Berkeleyside on Monday night.
In his remarks to Berkeleyside, the chief described the survey feedback as “a motivator” he says will drive him to improve. He offered insights on his view of department staffing, and described a range of efforts undertaken under his watch that he believes have made BPD a leader across a number of important areas, from training to recognize implicit biases to efforts to equip all officers with crisis intervention and de-escalation skills.
“Any leader, if they’re always listening and paying attention and trying to do better, it’s a pretty good start,” he said. … Continue reading »
Update, 11:33 p.m. BPD watch commander Lt. Mike Durbin confirmed that Kawakami has been located.
Update, 11:22 p.m. A BPD officer has found the missing man, according to scanner traffic reviewed by Berkeleyside.
Koichi Kawakami was located at San Pablo Avenue and Oregon Street, about a mile from his home on Ward. He’s being given a ride home now, according to scanner traffic.
Update, 10:55 p.m. Police say Kawakami was last seen around 9:40 p.m. near San Pablo Avenue and Allston Way walking north on Allston.
According to unconfirmed scanner traffic, police are using a K-9 unit (police dog) to help in their search.
Original post, 8:47 p.m. The Berkeley Police Department is asking for the public’s help to find a missing “at risk” man, 81-year-old Koichi Kawakami.
According to a Nixle alert sent out just before 8 p.m., Kawakami is Asian, 5 foot 1, and 135 pounds. … Continue reading »
It wasn’t exactly “Kumbaya,” but Monday night’s meeting between Berkeley residents, police and school officials was described by several in attendance as a significant step, and the culmination of more than a decade of grassroots work by parents and neighborhood activists.
The goal of the meeting was to begin to hash out how the Berkeley Unified School District will approach sharing information with the Berkeley Police Department to keep the community safe while also protecting the rights of those on campus.
The school district currently has no board policy to guide those decisions. Two members of the Berkeley School Board, Ty Alper and Josh Daniels, began trying to outline a policy earlier this year.
In May, when a draft version of the policy came to the attention of the Berkeley Police Department, sparks flew. Officers said at that time they felt the board’s approach looked like an attempt to block police efforts to solve crime, and prioritize the rights of those on campus suspected of committing crimes over the rights of victims. In several cases toward the end of the school year, police said teachers and the district refused to share important information with them about active cases, including a reported sexual assault involving students. … Continue reading »
Police asked motorists to avoid the area around Ashby Avenue and Martin Luther King Jr. Way in South Berkeley after a traffic collision Sunday morning that sent one person to the hospital.
Roads were closed and the Berkeley Fire Department was on scene attending to the injured, said Lt. Andrew Rateaver of the Berkeley Police Department. … Continue reading »
Community members all over Berkeley came together Tuesday to celebrate the annual National Night Out event. They danced, held potlucks, and had a chance to connect with police and firefighters as well as city staff and local officials across about 80 different block parties. The event is designed to help neighbors connect with each other in the interest of safety and build stronger ties with a range of city services, too. The photo gallery below captures some of the highlights from this year’s event.
Have more photos? Share them in the comments. Scroll down for a map of all the block parties registered this year, and learn how to sign up next year. … Continue reading »
After 41 years and a stellar career, Capt. Cynthia F. Harris retires from Berkeley Police Department
Late Thursday afternoon Berkeley Police Department communications manager Monique Frost’s voice crackled over the police radio and signed off Capt. Cynthia F. Harris for the last time, a day ahead of her official retirement on Friday after 41 years of service to the department.
In fact, many radio units went on the air to thank Harris for her leadership and guidance and for spearheading change. And the distorted voices were often emotional — Frost told Berkeleyside how Harris had helped her in her career, and over the radio she listed many of the highlights of Harris’ lengthy service, which are legion.
In a male-dominated profession, Harris has broken barriers. She was the first female cop to work for the Drug Task Force, a street unit responsible for handling some of Berkeley’s more dangerous criminals. From 1991 to 1993, the captain was the first African-American elected president of the Berkeley Police Association. And Harris was the first female officer to serve on the Crowd Management Team, which handles Berkeley’s many demonstrations.
Despite her accomplishments and accolades — and there are many, many more — Harris says she didn’t want to be a cop when she was younger.
“Initially, it wasn’t my career of choice,” she said. “Certain circumstances led me here.” When asked about those circumstances, Harris explained: “When I was 17, my mom passed away unexpectedly. I had promised my parents that I would finish school — I had wanted to pursue a law degree, but I just couldn’t do that at the time.” … Continue reading »
Two Berkeley police officers helped save the life of an infant who stopped breathing earlier this month, and the boy is now in stable condition at a local hospital, authorities said this week.
On July 8, police were called to a home in the 2100 block of Fifth Street for a child in distress, a 4-month-old boy who was unresponsive, said Sgt. Andrew Frankel, Berkeley Police spokesman.
When officers got to the home, no one would answer the front door, which was locked. So Officer Ken Tu jumped the back fence to get into the house through the rear, Frankel said.
Officers found the child’s grandmother and she led them to the boy’s bedside. They sent her to unlock the front door so the Berkeley Fire Department could get inside once they arrived.
The baby wasn’t breathing, so Tu began to perform CPR.
A short time later, to relieve Tu, Officer Chris Flores took over chest compressions, and the baby began taking short, inconsistent breaths but was still unresponsive. Flores then started rescue breathing — administering breaths in between chest compressions. … Continue reading »
A 22-year-old UC Berkeley student who had been missing since January has been confirmed by authorities to have died in Marin County.
Two sets of bones found on a beach in April were recently confirmed to have been a DNA match for Shuqin Zhang, who disappeared about a week after New Year’s, authorities said this week. Police described the young woman at that time as “missing and at risk” and were concerned for her mental health based on reports that she had been struggling with depression.
Authorities began to look for Zhang in January after she failed to board a flight home to China, the Berkeley Police Department said at that time. On Jan. 9, authorities found Zhang’s 2012 white Mercedes and some of her possessions on a cliff near the Point Reyes Lighthouse. Despite an extensive search, no other signs of her were found.
Marin County Chief Deputy Coroner Darrell Harris said Wednesday that hikers on the shoreline at Drakes Beach on April 23 came upon some scattered bones they believed might have been human. They took photographs and sent them to park rangers three days later. … Continue reading »
Two officers pull up to a house in Berkeley. There’s yelling coming from inside: Roommates are fighting about the rent and police have been dispatched to respond.
As the officers approach, the roommates come outside, still fighting. One of them has a gun. Seeing police, he grabs his roommate, holds him at gunpoint and drags him back inside.
The officers are ordering him to drop the gun but he refuses.
“We want to keep you guys safe,” an officer yells to the man.
“We’re safe. Go find some real shit to do!” the man yells.
“What do you need from us?” asks the officer.
“I need you to leave, bro,” the man replies.
The officers spend several more minutes trying to speak with the man: to have him toss his gun outside, send out his roommate, or provide his phone number so police can call him rather than shouting through the open doorway.
But he doesn’t come out. Instead, a trainer in a red shirt calls “time” and the officers, from the Berkeley Police Department, circle up to discuss the drill. It was one of three scenarios they ran through Thursday inside the vacant Pyramid brewery on Gilman Street in West Berkeley.
The goal of the training was to practice using verbal de-escalation tactics instead of force. It’s an approach the department already prides itself on using on a daily basis. But, as police shootings and use of force continue to draw increased scrutiny nationwide, the department says it is stepping up its efforts to ensure officers use those skills in Berkeley whenever possible.
“The Berkeley Police Department has a culture of de-escalation,” said Sgt. Spencer Fomby, a BPD use of force instructor and a leader on its tactical team. “We look at things differently. We try to take a different approach. You can tell by the outcomes that that is our goal.” … Continue reading »
Automated license plate readers will help parking availability but some express concern about privacy issues
Berkeley has launched a program to use a controversial technology that automatically reads license plates on cars to optimize and enforce parking, part of a larger effort to encourage more Berkeley residents not to drive.
The program, which began in May, aims to make the tedious and time-consuming process of conducting manual surveys of downtown parking — which takes more than two months from start to finish — more efficient, Matthai Chakko, city spokesman, told Berkeleyside. The city uses data from the surveys — how often and at what times parking spaces are occupied, for example — to adjust parking pricing and time limits based on people’s behavior.
“It’s extremely labor intensive to input every single license plate and license plate readers automate the manual data collection,” Chakko said, adding that it improved the accuracy of the assessments and allows them to be conducted more frequently. The readers also eliminate the need to manually chalk tires to enforce time limits, he said.
But some civil libertarians have expressed concern that the data collected by police can be used to track the movements of individuals and have called for tighter control of the data collected. The Police Review Commission is set to discuss the technology and its implications at a future meeting. It was going to discuss the issue Wednesday but the meeting was canceled due to lack of a quorum, according to Katherine J. Lee, who staffs the commission.
Berkeley has equipped five parking enforcement vehicles with the automated license plate readers (ALPR), which will also be used to conduct parking enforcement — such as booting or towing vehicles with more than five citations that are more than 30 days old — and search for stolen cars. … Continue reading »
A man standing on a West Berkeley median fell into a city-owned vehicle in the roadway and was taken to the hospital with serious injuries Monday, authorities said.
The man was standing on the center divider on San Pablo Avenue near Cedar Street when he fell, said Sgt. Andrew Frankel of the Berkeley Police Department, “striking a city vehicle that was passing.” (Update: A witness at the scene said the man appeared to be a panhandler.)
The man’s injuries appeared serious and he was taken to Highland Hospital in Oakland with an apparent head injury at about 1:30 p.m.
A local business owner said he saw lots of police in the area in front of pet supply store Animal Farm, as well as a crime scene investigation van, around 2:30 p.m.
“Not sure if it was serious, but certainly looked it,” he said. “I came back around 4:45 and it was back to normal.” … Continue reading »
A large truck hauling sand in the North Berkeley Hills overturned Thursday afternoon, and bystanders had to extricate the driver, who was taken to the hospital, authorities said.
Deputy Fire Chief Donna McCracken said the truck had been hauling sand while driving down Glendale Avenue when it “lost its brakes” around 1:30 p.m.
In an emergency maneuver, the driver steered up onto a private driveway at La Loma Avenue to stop the vehicle.
McCracken said the truck struck a parked car and retaining wall, causing damage, before it rolled onto its side. … Continue reading »
Update, 8:40 p.m.: Good news: Dorothy Ewing has been located. According to a Nixle alert issued by BPD at around 7:45 p.m., Ewing was found at about 6 p.m. Monday evening in downtown Oakland. The Berkeley Police Department said it would like to thank the public for its assistance in locating her.
Original story: Berkeley Police are asking for the community’s help in locating a missing “at-risk” woman. BPD issued a Nixle alert about the case at 4 p.m. Monday.
Dorothy … Continue reading »