Category Archives: Police

‘Unconstitutional police attacks’ in December Berkeley protests spur civil rights lawsuit

Lawyers Rachel Lederman and James Chanin (left) and plaintiffs xx, xx, xx and xx during the Monday press conference. Photo: Lance Knobel
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Eleven demonstrators and journalists have filed a civil rights complaint against the city of Berkeley, the city of Hayward, former Berkeley City Manager Christine Daniel, Berkeley Police Chief Michael Meehan, and 13 other named police officers in federal court seeking changes in how Berkeley polices demonstrations and damages for what they term “unconstitutional police attacks” during the Black Lives Matter protests on Dec. 6, 2014.

“The Berkeley police treated all the demonstrators as if they were violent and lawless,” James Chanin, a Berkeley-based civil rights attorney representing the plaintiffs, said at a press conference in front of Berkeley Police headquarters Monday morning. “The results were predictable, and that is why we’re here today. Non-violent protesters were injured, massive amounts of gas were used on non-violent protesters as well as people who had little if anything to do with the demonstrations, and those who did commit property damage got away while non-violent, innocent people were injured and/or prevented from exercising their First Amendment rights.”

Moni Law, a Berkeley Rent Board counselor, is one of the plaintiffs. Law said she was clubbed in the back from behind by a Berkeley police officer when she was urging other demonstrators to step back from the police line. At the press conference, Law described herself as a “reluctant plaintiff.”

“I want my own police department to protect and to serve,” Law said. “Let’s keep our city free of violence, and that includes police violence.”

Read past Berkeleyside coverage of the Berkeley protests.

Rachel Lederman, co-counsel for the plaintiffs and head of the San Francisco Bay Area Chapter of the National Lawyers Guild, said it was “somewhat surprising” that Berkeley police had received the most complaints and reports during the protests last December, even though there were demonstrations in Oakland and San Francisco, as well as other Bay Area cities.  … Continue reading »

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Berkeley police respond to huge Southside riot

A large riot took place in Berkeley early Sunday. Photo: Citizen reporter
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Thousands of revelers took to the streets around Channing Way and Piedmont Avenue in Berkeley’s Southside neighborhood Saturday night in what many called “a riot” that ultimately resulted in property damage and at least three assaults, one of which sent a victim to the hospital.

Police believe the assaults may have been committed by the same three people, who were taken into custody around 1:10 a.m., after daylight saving time ended.

Police said early Sunday they did not know what sparked the activity. According to one report from a UC Berkeley student on Twitter, however, “There’s a riot in berkeley like a real one bc they shut down all our parties.” The Southside neighborhood where the crowds were reported has a large concentration of fraternities associated with the university.

According to a dispatcher, the watch commander was unavailable to provide information about the crowd situation as of 12:35 a.m. Sunday because she was “in the middle of trying to coordinate 5,000 people in a riot right now.”

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Motorcycle rider injured in collision on I-80 in Berkeley

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At approximately 6:20 a.m., Oakland CHP units responded to a collision on the westbound lanes of I-80 west of University, according to Officer Sean Wilkenfeld, spokesman for CHP Oakland.

Upon arrival, officers found a Harley Davidson motorcycle and a Honda Civic that had been involved in a traffic collision. The rider of the motorcycle, a 39-year-old man from Richmond, sustained major (non-life-threatening) injuries and was taken by ambulance to Highland Hospital, Wilkenfeld said in a statement.

The CHP’s preliminary investigation revealed that the motorcyclist rear-ended the Honda Civic, causing him to be ejected. Two lanes were closed temporarily to conduct the investigation, but have since been re-opened. … Continue reading »

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Crash in West Berkeley sends pedestrian to Highland

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A male pedestrian was taken to Highland Hospital with major injuries Friday after being struck by a vehicle on the Gilman Street off-ramp from westbound Interstate 80.

The California Highway Patrol said the man’s name is not being released “due to the severity” of his injuries, and “until he is medically stable.”

According to the CHP, officers were dispatched just before 7:30 p.m. to a possible traffic collision on the off-ramp.

Officers found a vehicle and a pedestrian when they arrived.

“The pedestrian sustained major injuries to the head and was attended to by the Albany Fire Department,” then taken to Highland Hospital in Oakland for treatment.

According to the preliminary investigation, a 64-year-old Vallejo man driving a 2011 Kia Sorento was traveling on the off-ramp when, “for an unknown reason, the pedestrian walked into the … lane directly into the path of the Kia.” … Continue reading »

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Motorcyclist dies after crash on I-80 in Berkeley

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Update, Nov. 6: The motorcycle rider was identified as 44-year-old Kelly Wayne Dew of Benicia. His cause of death was blunt injuries, according to the Alameda County coroner’s office.

Original story, Oct. 23, 1:45 p.m. A man on a motorcycle died Friday morning after running into a minivan on Interstate 80 in Berkeley, the California Highway Patrol has reported.

According to the Oakland CHP, officers responded at about 9:15 a.m. for a report of a traffic collision on westbound I-80 near Ashby Avenue.

Officers found a collision involving a 2015 Ducati Diavel motorcycle and a 2010 Honda Odyssey minivan. The motorcyclist sustained major injuries and Berkeley Fire Department paramedics performed CPR on the scene, then took the motorcyclist to Highland Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

The Alameda County coroner’s office said the man’s name was not yet available as of 1:30 p.m. Friday. Berkeleyside will update this post if the name becomes available. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley police seek 3-D scanner for crime scenes

BPD is hoping to get a FARO 3D laser scanner to improve its approach to crime scene analysis. Image: FARO
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The Berkeley Police Department has applied for grant funding to buy a 3-D laser scanner to document crime scenes and injury-collision locations more precisely and accurately than its current equipment allows.

According to an Oct. 15 memo posted by City Manager Dee Williams-Ridley on the city website, the department has applied for a grant from the Department of Homeland Security’s Urban Areas Security Initiative program to cover the $85,793 cost of the scanner. The money would cover the warranty, maintenance and training for the scanner over a 10-year period.

According to the city, the scanner would be a significant upgrade from the current approach used by officers. The scanner would speed up the process, and require less time and training.

“Scene capture will become more convenient … and is likely to be deployed on a more frequent basis,” according to the city. “Acquisition and use of the FARO Laser Scanner will greatly enhance Police Department forensic and investigative capabilities, while decreasing related staffing costs, saving staff time, and allowing for greater ease in documenting crime and collision scenes.” … Continue reading »

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Op-ed: Berkeley police do not tolerate discrimination

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Recently, several groups have alleged that, due to racial disparity between Berkeley Police stop data and the resident census population, the only possible explanation was racial profiling by Berkeley Police. I respectfully disagree.

Racial disparity and implicit bias are complex and wide-ranging national issues. Disparity affects many of our society’s institutions including health care, education, finance, the legal system and others. We share our community’s concern about disparity and inequity.

The Constitution, state and federal law and department policy … Continue reading »

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Op-ed: Berkeley Police take a ‘head in the sand’ approach to racial profiling

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“The men and women of the Berkeley Police Department do not, have not and will never tolerate discriminatory, bias-based policing. Such discrimination is illegal, it is not our practice and it is not part of our organizational culture,” Meehan said.

If only that were true…

The recent release of data from Berkeley Police Department concerning the numbers of African Americans stopped, cited and searched made big news this week mostly because racial profiling is not supposed to be happening … Continue reading »

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DA hopes to find cause of water intrusion that led to Berkeley balcony collapse

A balcony at Library Gardens in downtown Berkeley collapsed Tuesday, killing six. Photo: Emily Dugdale
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The Alameda County district attorney’s office is hoping to determine the source of water intrusion that led a fifth-floor balcony to collapse in Berkeley in June, killing six and injuring seven.

The tragedy at Library Gardens was an international story, due both to the number of victims who died or suffered serious injuries, and the fact that those impacted were young students from Ireland who were living in the Bay Area for the summer as part of a cultural exchange program.

DA’s office spokeswoman Teresa Drenick told Berkeleyside on Monday that investigators made progress “with a significant part of its investigation” last week.

Read complete coverage related to the balcony collapse.

Investigators erected scaffolding at the Library Gardens apartment complex, and retained a construction company to remove parts of the building for analysis. … Continue reading »

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Police: Suspicious bag in downtown Berkeley proved safe; Shattuck Avenue open again

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Update, 3:05 p.m. Police report via Nixle that the suspicious bag was found to be safe. Shattuck Avenue has been re-opened.

Original story: Berkeley Police were investigating a suspicious bag in the 2300 block of Shattuck Avenue on Friday afternoon.

The suspicious bag is in the 2300 block of Shattuck and, while it is being checked out, Shattuck has been closed to vehicle and pedestrian traffic between Bancroft Way and Durant Avenue, according to a Nixle alert sent out by police at 2:40 p.m..

People on the scene report that the area was evacuated by the police. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley police chief says Tasers would help his officers

Police Chief Michael Meehan
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Berkeley Police Chief Michael Meehan told the Berkeley City Council on Tuesday night he believes his officers should be granted the option to carry Tasers, which are not currently allowed under city policy.

It was the first time Meehan has taken a stand on the issue in a high-profile public forum, though he said he had made similar comments in the past in smaller community meetings.

More than a dozen community members told council that Tasers should not be used in Berkeley, and shared stories from around the country about what they believed were inappropriate uses of the tool by law enforcement officers in other jurisdictions.

Tuesday evening, council received a report from researchers at the Stanford Criminal Justice Center who spent six months earlier this year looking into the issue on a pro bono basis. The researchers said, after reviewing more than 100 studies, that there are still too many unanswered questions about how Tasers are used, and that Berkeley should be cautious when considering whether to equip the local police force with them.

Berkeley is among about 2,000 law enforcement agencies nationwide, out of an estimated 18,000, that do not carry the tool.

Meehan told council that he knows the issue is a controversial one, but made his position on Tasers, also known as electronic control weapons or ECWs, clear.

Read past Berkeleyside coverage related to Tasers.

“The combined body of evidence and decades-­long experience leads me to believe that the availability of ECWs is in the best interests of our employees, and our community,” he said. “I would not say this if I did not think it was in the best interests of both.” … Continue reading »

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Berkeley council to hear Taser report Tuesday

The Berkeley City Council will consider asking city staff on May 6 to prepare report on the use of Tasers.   Photo: Creative Commons
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The Berkeley City Council is set to discuss a report Tuesday evening focused on the use of Tasers by law enforcement officers, and whether that might one day be appropriate in Berkeley.

Council asked the city manager to look into the issue last year, which resulted in a pro bono agreement with the Stanford Criminal Justice Center to study it. Two Stanford authors began work on their analysis in January, and completed their report in June.

According to the staff report prepared for Tuesday’s meeting, council asked for more information about “the history, potential benefits, impacts, and possible unintended consequences of allowing Berkeley police to carry and use Tasers, and to include in the report information regarding other jurisdictions ‘best practices’ and protocols, an analysis of changes in technologies, and the feasibility of doing a pilot program.” Council also asked to hear from the Police Review and Community Health commissions.

As far as possible future action, there’s no specific recommendation in the staff report, which notes that council will determine what happens next.  … Continue reading »

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25 years later: Henry’s hostage crisis remembered

Henry's hostage crisis: troops move in. Photo: David Yee
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The shots rang out just after midnight, leaving seven people injured and dozens held hostage in Henry’s Publick House at the Hotel Durant in Berkeley’s Southside neighborhood. One of the young men who was shot would die. For the survivors, it was just the beginning of a more than seven-hour standoff between a schizophrenic man who heard voices and would order bizarre sexual assaults of his female hostages before being shot by police 24 times as he lunged, armed with a gun, toward a group of hostages when police moved in to detain him.

Mehrdad Dashti, 29, had brought with him 445 rounds of ammunition, and three guns. He demanded trillions of dollars from the federal government in exchange for telepathy services he said he had provided. He told them he would accept three states in lieu of the cash. Dashti demanded that the San Francisco police chief appear on television and drop his pants. In addition to the sexual assaults, he carried out mock executions of hostages, and used others as human shields. Police described him at the time as “deranged.”

“That’s what was scary,” recalled one of the injured hostages, Jon Landa. “He was asking for things that weren’t really feasible outcomes. You knew that it wasn’t going to end well.”

The incident is widely considered among the most significant cases ever handled by BPD, which describes it as one of the nation’s most successful hostage rescue operations. The 25-year anniversary of the incident passed quietly on Sunday. In the end, 33 hostages were saved. One of the eight people shot by Dashti ultimately succumbed to his wounds: 22-year-old UC Berkeley student John Sheehy, who was known to friends as “Nick.”

Though decades have passed, the incident still has resonance for community members. A few officers who were on the police team that entered Henry’s to rescue the hostages met Sunday at the bar to reminisce, including one who traveled all the way from Oregon for the reunion. According to a waitress, several other people stopped into Henry’s in recent days to mention the incident or inquire about it.

Hostages reached by Berkeleyside said recovery had taken a long time, and that they continued to feel some effects from the trauma.

“The initial shock lasted a long time,” said Stacey Helley, who was shot in the arm when Dashti opened fire. She recalled the sound of bullet casings hitting the ground after he emptied the gun. “I heard the shells all clink to the floor. That plays on a loop in my brain, randomly — even today.” … Continue reading »

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