Tag Archives: Michael Meehan

Berkeley police defend tactics after laundromat robbery

Police search Sacramento Street, near Dwight Way, for an armed robber who robbed a laundromat, in Berkeley, on Monday, July 27. Photo: David Yee
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One week after a police operation in southwest Berkeley sparked community questions about whether military tools and tactics have been unnecessarily adopted by local departments, the Berkeley Police chief and one of his captains said safety was the overriding concern that drove decision making last Monday.

Threats to officer safety are very real. Police Chief Michael Meehan and Acting Capt. Jennifer Louis answered questions from Berkeleyside on Monday, Aug. 3, less than 24 hours after an officer-involving shooting in Oakland left a local man dead and a police sergeant in serious condition. According to a statement released by the Oakland Police, the man opened fire on officers with an assault rifle after they responded to his home during a sexual assault investigation. And, less than two weeks ago, Hayward Police Sgt. Scott Lunger was fatally shot without warning during a traffic stop.

Meehan said today, however, that it was the specifics of last week’s robbery and assault at a laundromat — “the facts of the individual case…. and the nature of the threat” — that prompted the use July 27 of a police dog from Oakland, an armored vehicle from Alameda and the Berkeley Police Special Response Team, which wears camouflage uniforms when it responds to calls.

Those decisions incited an emotional response from some in the Berkeley community and beyond who said the tactics are evidence of the increasing militarization of local police departments. Many said they were put off by the camouflage uniforms and armored vehicle, in particular. In the Berkeleyside comments, one person called the operation a sign of a “police state” and another decried the “unprecedented show of military force.” Others said police had made the right decisions, acting professionally and efficiently. But even some who made a point to say they support certain police tactics had questions. … Continue reading »

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Hundreds gather in Berkeley to remember balcony victims

Hundreds gathered in Civic Center Park Sunday night for a "Month's Mind" to honor and remember those killed in the June 16 balcony collapse. Photo: Ted Friedman
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A month after a fifth-floor balcony snapped off the façade of 2020 Kittredge St. in Berkeley, sending six people in their 20s to their deaths and injuring seven others, hundreds of people gathered at Martin Luther King Jr. Civic Center Park on Sunday to honor them.

The event was a “Month’s Mind,” a traditional Irish requiem mass held a month after a death, according to Philip Grant, the Irish consul general in San Francisco. It is meant to remember and honor the deceased. There is a moment of silence for reflection.

“It’s a moment of reflection on what happened and where we’ve come,” said Grant. … Continue reading »

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Six people killed in Berkeley balcony collapse identified

A balcony at Library Gardens in downtown Berkeley collapsed Tuesday, killing six. Photo: Emily Dugdale
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By Tracey Taylor and Emilie Raguso

Update, 4:40 p.m. According to the city of Berkeley, Philip Grant, the Consul General of Ireland to the Western United States, will have a wreath-laying ceremony at 5 p.m. near the site of the balcony collapse.

The city expects its investigation into what caused the collapse to take several days: “As part of the City’s investigation of the incident, the City will be retaining possession of the collapsed materials. Building and Safety staff have been on scene since early Tuesday morning, shortly after the collapse. Once the damaged materials are removed from the building, they will be taken to a City facility and will remain under City control.”

City staff members have taken other steps, as well, to document the scene and the damage. Inspectors have already been inside the unit, and have “completed an up-close, aerial investigation using cranes to examine the damage,” the city reported just after 4:30 p.m. At that time, the city also released property records related to the building where the accident took place.

Update, 3:30 p.m. At around 3:15 p.m., crews in downtown Berkeley used a crane to remove the fifth-floor balcony at Library Gardens, which fell in the early hours of Tuesday, killing six people.

ORIGINAL STORY: The six people who died early Tuesday morning after a balcony collapsed in downtown Berkeley have been identified as Ashley Donohoe, 22, from Rohnert Park; and Olivia Burke, Eimear Walsh, Eoghan Culligan, Niccolai Schuster and Lorcán Miller, all 21 years old and from Ireland.

See complete coverage of the balcony collapse.

At a press conference that started at around 1:15 p.m., Philip Grant, Consul General of Ireland to Western United States, said: “Our hearts are breaking but it is so good to know that so many people stand with us.”

Listen to an audio recording of the press conference below. … Continue reading »

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Police report mistakes, challenges in Berkeley protests

Protesters and police clashed Dec. 6, 2014, during a Black Lives Matter demonstration. Photo: Gael McKeon
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Berkeley police officers used 50 tear gas grenades and “blast rounds” to clear Telegraph Avenue during a Black Lives Matter demonstration in December, but police officials declined to say Wednesday night whether that had been excessive.

The June 10 meeting before the city’s Police Review Commission was the citizen panel’s first chance to ask officers specific questions about the anti-police protests in Berkeley in December, following the release on Tuesday of a 161-page report completed by the department to analyze its response to the demonstrations.

After being charged with the task earlier this year by the Berkeley City Council, the PRC is working to complete its own investigation: questioning authorities, reviewing the police report, examining original documents and interviewing witnesses. Council asked the PRC to come back with its findings within six months.

Read past Berkeleyside coverage of the Berkeley protests.

Berkeley Police Chief Michael Meehan told commissioners Wednesday night that, without “a full discussion about the facts and circumstances at the moments those decisions were made” — regarding tear gas use on Telegraph Avenue on Dec. 6-7, 2014 — he could not say whether an appropriate amount had been used or not. 

“It’s a discussion I think we should have,” Meehan said.

The time for that discussion, however, was apparently not Wednesday night. Meehan stressed that the department’s focus while doing its report had been to find strategies to avoid getting into situations where force becomes necessary. He noted that, once officers witness crimes being committed or are “already under attack, their options are limited.” … Continue reading »

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Police

Police Review Commission gets first chance for answers from Berkeley police after December protests

Protesters in Berkeley in December demanded an end to police brutality throughout the nation. Photo: Emilie Raguso
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Six months after protesters took to the streets to demand more just policing practices, the Berkeley Police Department will tonight present its report on how it handled the protests, and what it might do better in the future.

The report is scheduled to come Wednesday, June 10, before the city’s Police Review Commission in a 6 p.m. meeting at the South Berkeley Senior Center at 2939 Ellis St.

In recent months, the citizen oversight panel has been working on its own investigation into the protests, which were prompted by killings by officers in Ferguson, Missouri, and New York. Many community members were outraged after police in Berkeley used tear gas and batons to clear crowds on Telegraph Avenue on Dec. 6, 2014, the first night of frequent, lengthy demonstrations throughout the month. The next night, police kept their distance much of the night, allowing extensive vandalism by some members of the crowd to ravage the city.

Read past Berkeleyside coverage of the Berkeley protests.

The PRC plans to submit the findings of its own report to the Berkeley City Council in August after reviewing police documents related to the protests, and interviewing witnesses about what took place. Wednesday night will be the first chance for the commission to question Berkeley police in detail about their December decisions and actions.

In preparation for Wednesday night’s meeting, Berkeley Copwatch, a watchdog organization, has called for the resignation of Berkeley Police Chief Michael Meehan, citing “leadership failure” during the protests. According to Copwatch, the police investigation into the protests “identifies a series of bad decisions, system failures, skewed priorities and lack of mission clarity that Berkeley Copwatch feels are numerous enough to justify a call for Chief Michael Meehan to resign.”

A Copwatch statement released Wednesday morning continues, “this report identifies failures of leadership that include an inability to manage mutual aid forces, an inability to effectively distinguish between the need for crowd management and crowd control, an inability to identify a clear mission for local and mutual aid forces and an inability to gather and usefully employ information about what was actually happening in the streets on those nights.”

Berkeleyside reviewed the same protest-related documents the PRC requested from the city, and has posted them below along with brief summaries of what they contain. On Tuesday, the Police Department released the findings of its internal investigation, which included more than 30 recommendations for how the department might improve its practices in the future. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley Police release long-awaited protest report

Berkeley protests, Dec. 8, 2014. Photo: Kim Aronson
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After launching an internal investigation earlier this year into the circumstances surrounding anti-police protests that tore through Berkeley in December, to examine how the department responded, the Berkeley Police Department has released its report on what took place and what might be improved in the future.

In a letter announcing the report, Berkeley Police Chief Michael Meehan described the Dec. 6-7, 2014, demonstrations — which resulted in the tear gassing of a crowd on Telegraph Avenue and ongoing public criticism in response — as “significant civil unrest and violent protest.”

“It was immediately clear to the Department that the events of December 2014, which had not been experienced in Berkeley for decades, represented opportunities for our organization to learn and grow,” he wrote.

Read past Berkeleyside coverage of the Berkeley protests.

Four Berkeley officers, Lt. Dave Frankel, Sgt. Dan Montgomery, Officer Ryan Andersen and Officer Darrin Rafferty, have been working full time on the project since it was assigned earlier this year. A report on the project is expected to come Wednesday night before the city’s Police Review Commission.  … Continue reading »

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Berkeley taxpayers pick up the tab to send police officers to out-of-state funerals

The Police Department’s Honor Guard was in attendance, in new uniforms recently purchased by the department. Photo: Emilie Raguso
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Berkeley taxpayers picked up much of the bill for two police officers to fly to New York City in January to attend the funeral of an officer who had been killed in the line of duty, according to an investigation by the Oakland Tribune.

Berkeley paid $850.60 for lodging and meals for the trip, plus 40 hours of paid work time, according to the Tribune. JetBlue provided free plane tickets.

Berkeley Police Chief Michael Meehan justified the expense to the Tribune, saying it boosts morale for police officers from one jurisdiction to show their support for officers in other cities who have been killed.  … Continue reading »

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Principal restricts access to Berkeley High because of reports that a fight might break out

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Update, 8:10 p.m.: BHS acting principal Kristin Glenchur sent out an email to the school community at around 5:30 p.m. to report on the incident today and how the school managed it. She said the school had “exercised an abundance of caution” by increasing police presence on and around campus and that it had “issued school discipline consequences to those students who were involved in the McClymonds incident.” “We are glad to report that today was quiet with no interruptions to class,” she wrote. Glenchur recommended that families pick up their students on the MLK side of the school “as most of the trouble we have had to manage recently has occurred on the Milvia and Shattuck side of school.” Glenchur did not mention that three people were arrested in connection with the incident.

Update, 4:30 p.m. Police arrested three Oakland residents, one of whom was found to have a replica gun, during the lunch period. According to authorities, they told police they were planning to help in a fight between Berkeley High students. See the update.

Original story, 11:30 a.m. The principal of Berkeley High is asking students to stay on campus at lunch today and is limiting visitor access because of a concern that fights may break out.

Kristin Glenchur sent an email to the Berkeley High community Wednesday morning alerting families that Berkeley High and McClymonds High School students may be planning “to continue a personal conflict related to the very large fight that occurred in Berkeley three weeks ago.”

“We now have what we believe are credible reports that the group of students they are fighting with intend to come to Berkeley today either at lunch or after school,” Glenchur wrote. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley set to require surveillance video at liquor stores

Bing's Liquor
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Two young men were shot and killed near Bing’s Liquors store on San Pablo Avenue in Berkeley in 2013. The homicides contributed to a recommendation this week that liquor stores in certain commercial areas of the city install or upgrade their surveillance systems within the next six months.

In the report that was given a first approval by the Berkeley City Council on Tuesday, police identified the areas of concern as downtown, University Avenue, Telegraph Avenue, San Pablo Avenue, north Shattuck Avenue, and Shattuck and Adeline.

Berkeley Police Chief Michael Meehan, who submitted the recommendation, said many liquor stores in the city already have video surveillance cameras. However they are not always maintained and there are inconsistencies in the type of systems used. He said a typical case might see the son at a family-owned business being the only one who knows how to operate the camera.

The new ordinance would see police officers help all the relevant liquor stores get compatible digital equipment that is in working order, he said, speaking at a special session in which the police presented their 2014 Crime Report.  … Continue reading »

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Crime

Violent crime dropped 25% in Berkeley in 2014

Berkeley's annual crime report is coming up Tuesday night. Image: Berkeley Police Department
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Police officials will give the Berkeley City Council a broad overview of 2014 crime trends Tuesday night, showing significant reductions in the city’s most serious incidents.

Last year saw a 25% reduction in violent crimes, and a 5% reduction in property crimes. The annual crime report draws largely on data submitted to the FBI. The FBI’s Uniform Crime Reports program tracks homicide, robbery, rape, burglary, larceny, auto theft and aggravated assault across 17,000 law enforcement agencies, which represent 90% of these agencies nationwide.

The city saw increases in aggravated assaults (8%) and commercial burglaries (28%). Arson reports were flat. Police said the assaults “frequently involved alcohol or drug abuse by victim and/or suspect, and frequently involved acquaintances.”  … Continue reading »

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Council: No drones for Berkeley police for 1 year

A drone spotted in Berkeley last October. Photo: William Newton
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The Berkeley City Council voted last week to enact a one-year moratorium on the use or acquisition of drones by the Berkeley Police Department.

The Feb. 24 vote came despite the fact that the department had no plans to get or use a drone.

“We don’t own a drone. We have no budget for drones. We have no plan to buy a drone,” said Police Chief Michael Meehan on Friday. “It’s not on our radar.”

Read more about drones in Berkeley.

Council voted Tuesday to allow the Berkeley Fire Department to use drones in disaster response efforts. But officials, for the most part, said they are not comfortable with police using drones for law enforcement purposes until the city hashes out a policy on the subject. As part of last week’s vote, they pledged to work on that policy at some point in the future.

The vote Tuesday does not affect privately-owned drones in Berkeley.  … Continue reading »

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Police release redacted reports on Berkeley protests

After denying a Public Records Act request from a local police watchdog group, the department responded with heavily redacted documents.
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The Berkeley Police Department has released two operational plans about protests in the city Dec. 6-7, but most of the wording was blacked out and redacted, so minimal information was revealed.

Andrea Prichett, co-founder of Berkeley Copwatch, requested the documents as part of two Public Records Act requests in December and January. The police department initially said the plans were exempt from release. In response to a second request from Prichett, the department provided the plans, but removed information it said related to security procedures and intelligence information.

According to a police department letter to Prichett on Jan. 26, “The disclosure of such documents could endanger public and officer safety and impede the success of future operations. Additionally, the operational plans and related documents are exempt under the ‘deliberative process privilege’ of Government Code 6255 because disclosure could have a chilling effect on the ability of the department and its command staff to candidly discuss, plan for, and respond to events requiring crowd control that are often fluid in nature.”

Read complete Berkeley protests coverage on Berkeleyside.

Berkeley Police Chief Michael Meehan has said the department is working on its own comprehensive report about the protests. Meehan told the city’s Police Review Commission in January that the report would be released later this year, “in an un-redacted fashion so everybody will have a chance to read what we knew when we knew it, and what we believe can be done differently in the future to hopefully end up with a different result.”

The two documents released to Prichett — who shared them with Berkeleyside — came in a very different form, however. In a 13-page “Incident Briefing” about a march planned for Dec. 6, 2014, about eight of the pages were blacked out. The department left visible the names of officers who had leadership roles, including Capt. Erik Upson, who was the incident commander that night, a summary regarding known plans that had been posted on social media about the Dec. 6 demonstration, and a general two-paragraph mission statement about how it would handle crowd control. … Continue reading »

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Citizen panel on police to launch Berkeley protests probe

Police Review Commission, Jan. 14, 2015. Photo: Emilie Raguso
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Last week, Berkeley’s Police Review Commission voted unanimously to launch an investigation into the police response to protests over the deaths of Eric Garner and Michael Brown that halted business as usual in Berkeley in December.

Berkeley Police Chief Michael Meehan told the citizen oversight panel during its Jan. 14 meeting that his department is working diligently on its own review of the protests, which is set to be complete within the next few months. Meehan said an officer, a sergeant and a lieutenant are working on the report “nonstop,” full time — as of earlier this month — under the direction of Berkeley Police Capt. Cynthia Harris.

“This is not going to be something that will sit around for six months and then nobody will ever see it,” Meehan told the PRC. “When it is complete, it will be made public in an un-redacted fashion so everybody will have a chance to read what we knew when we knew it, and what we believe can be done differently in the future to hopefully end up with a different result.”

Read complete Berkeley protests coverage on Berkeleyside.

Instead of waiting for that report’s findings, the commission voted to begin its own probe into why police used tear gas and other force on protesters Dec. 6, along with several other issues that have been raised as concerns by some community members over the past month. Commission Vice Chair George Perezvelez said the community might think the PRC was shirking its duties if it failed to take prompt action.

“Our own investigation is independent from theirs,” he told his fellow commissioners. “As good as all that information will do us, it just doesn’t sound like our process.” … Continue reading »

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