Category Archives: Police
City seeks rejection of wrongful death lawsuit against police; celebrity pathologist disputes cause of death
Attorneys for the city of Berkeley have asked a U.S. District Court judge to reject a wrongful death lawsuit filed in 2014 by the father of a transgender woman who died in police custody in 2013.
Representatives for both parties are expected to appear in court Friday morning at the Phillip Burton Federal Building in San Francisco. If the case moves ahead, the trial itself has been scheduled to begin Oct. 17, according to materials from lawsuit supporters.
Kayla Moore, a 41-year-old Berkeley resident, was in her Allston Way apartment Feb. 12, 2013, when police responded to a disturbance call there, authorities have said. She stopped breathing during a struggle as officers tried to detain her. The Alameda County coroner’s office said Moore — whose given name was Xavier — died due to “acute combined drug intoxication” and pre-existing medical conditions, and ruled her death an accident.
The city filed a motion for summary judgment in June essentially arguing that the family has neither the evidence nor the facts to back up the wrongful death suit. The city says officers used “minimal force” and have “qualified immunity” under the law as to the force they did use.
Oakland attorney John Burris, whose firm is representing Kayla’s father, Arthur Moore, has argued police had no cause to arrest Moore and “used unreasonable force” during the arrest.
To bolster the case, Burris has filed a declaration by Dr. Werner Spitz, a forensic pathologist who has worked on a variety of high-profile cases in recent decades. Spitz said restraint by the officers made it difficult for Moore to breathe and contributed to her death. … Continue reading »
Berkeley Police Department to focus on staffing, will ‘take a collective deep breath’ under new chief
In the wake of the abrupt departure Tuesday of Berkeley Police Chief Michael Meehan, Acting Chief Andrew Greenwood says his short-term goals are to hire more officers and keep the department focused on the future.
“Calm, steady, forward movement is the way to go,” Greenwood told the city’s Police Review Commission on Wednesday night. “That’s kind of where I’m at.”
Greenwood was at the PRC meeting to give the regularly scheduled chief’s report and discuss the mid-year crime report, but the first topic that came up when the meeting began was Meehan’s sudden departure, announced Wednesday, and what will happen next.
Commission Chair George Perezvelez called Meehan’s resignation the elephant in the room, and noted that the leadership change — which put Berkeley native Greenwood at the helm — is “effective immediately.” … Continue reading »
Berkeley authorities were on alert Wednesday afternoon after a suspicious package appeared at the Public Safety Building, which houses the police and fire departments, authorities said.
The Fire Department’s Hazardous Materials Team and the Police Department’s Bomb Squad were sent to investigate the package, said Deputy Fire Chief Donna McCracken, at 2100 Martin Luther King Jr. Way.
A “shelter in place” order was put into effect for building occupants when the package was discovered shortly before 4:20 p.m.
Authorities shut down the sidewalk and a southbound traffic lane on Martin Luther King Jr. Way from Addison Street down to Allston Way during the investigation. One lane of southbound traffic remained open for vehicles. … Continue reading »
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.” … Continue reading »
Berkeley police spent three hours Monday negotiating with a man who had locked himself in his family’s apartment in the 1500 block of Prince Street after threatening to kill officers and harm his mother and brother.
The subject eventually surrendered and he was taken to a medical facility on an emergency psychiatric hold, according to police. Charges may be pending, according to a Berkeley Police Department Nixle alert.
Police received a 911 call at 10:22 a.m. from the mother of the subject. “The reporting party stated she locked herself in the bedroom because her 34-year old son had been smoking drugs and that he was making threats towards her and her older son,” according to police. … Continue reading »
A car crash in West Berkeley on Saturday morning caused moderate injuries for three motorists, authorities report.
The Berkeley Police Department said two vehicles were involved in the crash, which took place at San Pablo Avenue and Addison Street shortly before 8:40 a.m.
BPD and the Berkeley Fire Department responded.
One of the vehicles went into a building, said Lt. Andrew Rateaver, BPD watch commander, and caused minor damage.
All three of the injured parties were taken to the hospital for treatment. … Continue reading »
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 »