Category Archives: Police

Drone battle to come before Berkeley City Council

Two quadricopter drones, typical of the designs popular with hobbyists. Photo: Gregor Hartl/Ars Electronica
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More than a year after the Berkeley City Council asked three city panels to take a look at the use of drones around town, two starkly different recommendations are slated to come before officials in a special work session later this month.

The city’s Disaster and Fire Safety Commission has made a recommendation to allow the police and fire departments to use drones “for specific enumerated purposes in emergency situations.” Usage would have to approved by the city manager, police chief or fire chief.

But two other city bodies, the Peace & Justice Commission and the Police Review Commission, have asked council to declare Berkeley a “no drone zone,” citing concerns related to safety and privacy, among other issues. … Continue reading »

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Councilmen: Time is now to discuss Tasers in Berkeley

Councilman Laurie Capitelli. March 5, 2013. Photo: Emilie Raguso
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Three Berkeley City Council members are bringing the issue of Taser use by local police to the forefront with a proposed council agenda item currently set for consideration in early May.

Councilman Laurie Capitelli has drafted an item to request a report from the city manager about the possible use of Tasers by police in Berkeley, along with consideration of the idea by the city’s Police Review Commission.

Capitelli said it was last week’s violent attack on a Berkeley Police officer at Aquatic Park that brought about the current proposal. A man has been charged with attempted murder in that case. … Continue reading »

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Police call for Tasers after attempted killing of officer

The Berkeley Police Association, the union for the rank and file, has been making the case for officers to have Tasers. Photo: Creative Commons
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The president of the Berkeley Police Association is asking city officials to consider the use of Tasers by Berkeley officers after a violent attack on an officer Monday.

The police association, the union for the rank and file, has been asking publicly for Tasers since at least last year. According to association president Sgt. Chris Stines, 95% of California’s law enforcement agencies use Tasers, but Berkeley is not among them.

Last fall, after a man tried to stab himself to death in Berkeley, Stines said officers with Tasers would have been able to resolve that situation with less injury. Since then, Stines said this week, there have been at least four other incidents, including Monday’s attack, in which Tasers would have made a difference. … Continue reading »

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Caltrans fence forces homeless to find new camp

The people who used to sleep under the Gilman/I-80 underpass are trying to adjust to their new cramped sleeping situation. Photo: Natalie Orenstein
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Responding to complaints that the homeless people who camped under the Gilman/I-80 underpass were engaged in criminal activity, Caltrans has fenced off the area — pushing the encampment onto a narrow strip nearby.

Caltrans installed the fencing between Feb. 10 and March 6 at the request of the Berkeley Police Department, “in order to help curtail criminal activity in the area,” said Caltrans spokesman Robert Haus via email.

“We have had complaints regarding criminal activity associated with the encampment down there,” said police spokeswoman officer Jennifer Coats via email. “We have reached out to those camping in the area through members of our Crisis Intervention Team (CIT), Area Coordinators, and Mobile Crisis workers.” … Continue reading »

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‘Suspicious substance’ in Berkeley turns out to be plaster

Image: Google Maps
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A report of a suspicious white substance in the 1900 block of Martin Luther King Jr. Way closed a central Berkeley block during a short investigation that caused alarm among neighbors and passers-by Monday evening.

The Berkeley Fire Department ultimately determined that the substance was actually plaster from a resident’s home, authorities said.

Monday at 5:36 p.m., dispatchers received a call from a man who had noticed “white powder in various places around his house,” said officer Byron White, a Berkeley Police spokesman. The man had seen the material in his side yard two days prior. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley to launch Nixle crime alerts for phone, email

Berkeley police officer Stephen Burcham presents 10-year-old Brandon Coleman with a certificate. Photo: Mark Coplan
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The city of Berkeley is kicking off its first foray into social media communication with a six-month pilot program to let police officers send crime and safety alerts directly to the public, city staff announced Monday night.

City staff has been saying since 2011 that plans to explore social media usage, and develop a policy to govern its use, are in the works. As of this week, there’s finally something to show for it.

Beginning May 1, Berkeley Police officers will be able to use online alert network Nixle to send out a variety of information concerning anything from missing people or wanted suspects to road closures and other advisories.

City spokesman Matthai Chakko announced the pilot program to a group of about 60 community members who attended a neighborhood watch-type meeting with police Monday night. … Continue reading »

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Car strikes and kills 98-year-old pedestrian in Berkeley

Joseph Luft
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A 98-year-old man was struck by a car Friday afternoon while crossing the intersection of Bancroft Way and Sacramento Street. He later died of his injuries.

Berkeley police said the man was struck around 12:23 p.m.

He was conscious and talking when police arrived, but he died at the hospital around 6 p.m., according to Berkeley Police spokeswoman officer Jennifer Coats.

The Alameda County coroner’s office identified him as Joseph Luft of Berkeley.

The driver is cooperating with police, Coats said in a press release. It does not appear that drugs or alcohol were factors in the collision, she said.

Luft, a psychologist, was the creator of the Johari Window, a technique he and Harry Ingrahm invented in 1955 to help people better understand their relationship with others. He taught at San Francisco State University for more than 20 years.

The Luft family released a statement Saturday stating that Joseph Luft was a World War II veteran, “a proud father of four and beloved local figure,” who had taken a daily walk for more than 50 years. … Continue reading »

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Update: Bus fire slows I-80 traffic in Berkeley, no injuries

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Update, 6:45 p.m. Berkeley Fire Department spokesman Deputy Chief Avery Webb said the bus that caught fire Friday morning was a Storer Coachways tourist bus with 21 passengers. Webb said Berkeley firefighters were dispatched to the scene at 11:16 a.m. for a fire that affected the engine compartment of the bus. Smoke from the fire made its way into the passenger compartment, but the fire itself did not spread beyond the engine area. All the passengers on the bus had gotten off by the time firefighters arrived, and Storer quickly sent another bus to pick them up. No injuries were reported. Berkeley firefighters extinguished the fire when they arrived to the scene, on Interstate 80 between Ashby and University avenues. Webb said there were multiple helicopters in the area as emergency crews responded.

Update, 1:45 p.m. 511.org reports that there are “residual delays” on eastbound I-80 near University Avenue in Berkeley after Friday’s bus fire, but that all lanes are open as of 1:45 p.m.

Update, 1:34 p.m. Via 511.org: “On Friday, March 28th at 1:20pm, the Severe Traffic Alert remains in effect on Eastbound I-80 before University Ave. in Berkeley. The right lane is closed due to a bus fire. Motorists are advised to expect delays and avoid the area. There is no estimated time to reopen the roadway.”

Original story, 12:17 p.m. A tour bus caught fire on Interstate 80 near University Avenue in Berkeley on Friday morning, and a traffic advisory has been issued due to closed lanes on the highway, authorities said. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley asks public for help to create new police beats

The Berkeley Police Department has used the same beat map since 1993, and the city is looking into how to adjust it. (Click to view larger.) Image: Berkeley Police
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The Berkeley Police Department is asking the public for input as it analyzes its current staffing resources and reconsiders how it deploys officers around the city.

This week, the city posted a survey online to collect feedback about what kind of services community members want, and what their priorities are.

The main question is not whether the city should hire more officers. But, rather, the city wants to know: Would community members prefer a larger beat that’s always staffed, or a smaller beat that sometimes has no assigned officer? That approach is, perhaps, understandable given the city’s current budget situation, and the fact that even a new officer hired on to the department makes over $100,000 a year once all is said and done. … Continue reading »

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Man drives van into bay near Berkeley, crawls to safety

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A man who accidentally drove his van into the San Francisco Bay near HS Lordships restaurant in Berkeley just after midnight Friday managed to get back to land before authorities arrived to save him.

Berkeley Deputy Fire Chief Avery Webb said Friday that the man, who appeared to be in his 60s, had been parked facing the water toward San Francisco around midnight when the accident occurred.

“As he went to back out, he lost control of the vehicle and made several circles in reverse before going over the side of the embankment into the water,” Webb said.

Authorities in Berkeley received a call about the accident at 12:03 a.m. Dispatchers sent out a “water rescue” team after a vehicle was reported to be in the water off Seawall Drive. Berkeleyside broke the news of the accident on Twitter at 12:06 a.m.  … Continue reading »

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Potentially hazardous chemical suicide in Berkeley called for collaborative response, cautious approach

Kustu
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The death by chemical suicide earlier this week of a former UC Berkeley professor left many in the community reeling with disbelief.

Berkeleyside’s revelation that the person found dead in a room at the Berkeley City Club was Sydney Kustu, who killed herself on her 71st birthday using a potentially deadly chemical called sodium azide, was shocking to those who had known her, including neighbors and friends who remembered her as “friendly,” “kind” and “generous.” The nature of the death was also so unusual that it prompted many who had not known her to take pause. … Continue reading »

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Chemical suicide victim was UC Berkeley professor

Kustu
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The woman who committed suicide using a toxic chemical on Tuesday at the Berkeley City Club, prompting a hazardous materials evacuation, was a former professor at UC Berkeley. She killed herself on her 71st birthday.

Sydney Kustu was a professor emerita in plant and microbial biology at Cal’s College of Natural Resources and a member of the prestigious National Academy of Sciences. She was born March 18, 1943, according to an official at the Alameda County coroner’s office, who said Kustu was a Berkeley resident.

Kustu was found deceased in a room at the City Club by a maid, according to an employee of the club, which also operates as a hotel. She had left notes for authorities warning them about the dangerous substance, according to the staffer. … Continue reading »

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Elderly woman commits suicide with toxic chemical at Berkeley City Club, leaves note to warn authorities

Berkeley Women's City Club, 2315 Durant Ave, Berkeley, CA
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UPDATE, March 19: Authorities identified the woman who was found dead at the Berkeley City Club on Tuesday as 71-year-old Sydney Kustu. Read more about Kustu in Berkeleyside’s follow-up story, published Wednesday.

UPDATE, 9:10 p.m.: The person who committed suicide today at the Berkeley City Club was an 80-year-old woman who killed herself in her room using sodium azide, according to the Oakland Tribune. The woman lived in an apartment on the third floor of the landmark building, police officer Ethell Wilson said. The Tribune also reported that the woman left a note warning authorities of the dangerous situation. Sodium azide, a colorless salt, is the gas-forming component in many car airbag systems. When mixed with water it is acutely toxic. … Continue reading »

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