Category Archives: Police


Judge tosses bulk of wrongful death suit against police

About 50 people held a rally Monday morning in support of a wrongful death lawsuit from the family of Kayla Moore. Photo: Emilie Raguso
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A U.S. District Court judge has rejected the majority of a wrongful death lawsuit against the city of Berkeley that criticized the way police officers handled a 2013 call involving a transgender woman in a mental health crisis.

The woman, 41-year-old Kayla Moore, stopped breathing and died after police struggled with her to take her into custody. The family filed a lawsuit in 2014 taking issue with the police response, alleging excessive force and unfair treatment because Moore was transgender.

Monday, about 50 supporters of the wrongful death suit rallied outside the Phillip Burton Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse in San Francisco and pledged to continue the fight. A hearing had been scheduled for Monday where attorneys for the family believed they would be able to present arguments, but those plans changed abruptly Friday when Judge Charles R. Breyer issued a ruling that threw out the bulk of the suit.

Read complete background on the case. 

The city of Berkeley filed a motion for summary judgment in June essentially arguing that the family had 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.

Friday, Breyer issued a ruling agreeing with much of the city’s argument.

He said officers were essentially justified in trying to take Moore into custody — because she “was clearly in the midst of a paranoid schizophrenic mental health crisis,” according to a police officer’s deposition — and that there was no evidence officers used unreasonable force when she struggled during detention. … Continue reading »

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Cyclist sustains serious injuries after vehicle crash

A cyclist was taken to the hospital with serious injuries after a crash with a motorist Tuesday. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel
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Update, Thursday, 1:30 p.m. BPD is looking for witnesses to the crash. Authorities ask anyone who saw the collision to call Sgt. Emily Murphy at 510-981-5982 or email her at

The cyclist remains in the Intensive Care Unit, BPD reports.

Update, Wednesday, Oct. 5, 2 p.m. The cyclist, a 25-year-old Berkeley man, remains in the ICU, authorities report. (Berkeley Police originally erroneously told Berkeleyside the cyclist was a woman.)

Update, 8 p.m. BPD traffic investigators have left the scene.

Update, 6:50 p.m. Berkeley investigators remain on Sacramento Street working to document the scene after a crash earlier Tuesday that caused serious injuries to a cyclist. Several blocks of northbound Sacramento remain closed. … Continue reading »

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City seeks rejection of wrongful death lawsuit against police; celebrity pathologist disputes cause of death

Kayla Moore protest 9/20/16. Photo: Daniel McPartlan
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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 »

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Berkeley Police Department to focus on staffing, will ‘take a collective deep breath’ under new chief

Capt. Andrew Greenwood, many other members of the department, and retirees and family, attended the ceremony Thursday. Photo: Emilie Raguso
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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 »

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‘Suspicious package’ shuts down Public Safety Building

Berkeley Police Department. Photo: Emilie Raguso
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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 »

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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
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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 »

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Man who threatened family and Berkeley police surrenders after a three-hour standoff

A man who threatened to harm his mother and brother surrendered to police Monday after a three-hour standoff. He lived in the 1500 block of Prince St.
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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 »

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Crash in West Berkeley causes moderate injuries to 3

Car crash. Photo: BPD
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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 »

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Officers question leadership of Berkeley police chief

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

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Update: Missing man found by Berkeley police officer

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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 »

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After initial stumble, police and schools aim to team up

Representatives from BUSD and the School Board — Superintendent Donald Evans, Susan Craig and Ty Alper — ask the community for feedback about its policy related to sharing information with police. Photo: Emilie Raguso
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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 »

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1 taken to hospital after crash at Ashby, MLK

Authorities are responding to South Berkeley for a traffic collision. Photo: BPD
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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 »

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Photo gallery: Berkeley celebrates National Night Out

National Night Out, Aug. 2, 2016. Photo: City of Berkeley
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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 »

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