Tag Archives: Michael Meehan

Berkeley councilman Laurie Capitelli profited from $500,000 housing loan given to police chief, paper says

Laurie Capitelli, Espresso Roma, Berkeley, CA, Oct. 10, 2012.
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Seven months after City Councilman Laurie Capitelli voted in November 2009 to loan incoming Police Chief Michael Meehan $500,000 in public funds to buy a house, he helped sell Meehan a home and garnered a $15,000 commission, according to a report by Thomas Peele for the Bay Area News Group.

Capitelli had not been hired as Meehan’s real estate agent when he voted with the rest of the City Council to provide the housing loan. Consequently, he does not feel he broke any ethical boundaries, he told the newspaper.

“I had no clue I’d be representing him” when the loan was approved, said Capitelli, 69, who is a partner in Red Oak Realty. “He came to me months later.”

Others, including City Councilman Kriss Worthington and an ethicist, think Capitelli did violate ethical boundaries.

“No way!” Worthington told the Mercury News. “It is almost inconceivable. It’s just slimy and unethical. It cheapens the office” of council member. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley coalition says police stops show racial bias

A local coalition has raised concerns about alleged racial profiling by Berkeley police. Photo: Emilie Raguso
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Berkeley police officers disproportionately stop and search people of color during traffic stops, according to a coalition of groups that presented data and demanded changes from the department Tuesday.

Representatives from the Berkeley NAACP, Berkeley Copwatch and UC Berkeley’s Black Student Union presented the data at City Hall, and said the department must address the disparities.

The Berkeley Police Department quickly disputed the conclusions reached by the group, and said the department has already taken a number of steps to address implicit biases through training and education. The department says it has been recognized nationally for how well its staffing breakdown reflects the demographics of the community, as well as for its training and professionalism.

Berkeley Police Chief Michael Meehan said he appreciated that the groups are raising awareness about the issue of disparities in the criminal justice system, but questioned their methodology and said their statement “generates more questions than answers.”

The coalition, which includes the San Francisco Bay Area chapter of the National Lawyers Guild and the local chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, analyzed nearly seven months of data related to about 4,700 traffic stops this year. According to the data, they said, 30.5% of the stops involved black motorists, even though black people make up only 8% of Berkeley’s population.

White motorists made up 36.7% of the stops, though they make up 60% of the city’s population. … Continue reading »

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Serious Berkeley crime skyrockets in first half of 2015

The 2015 mid-year crime report: numbers are up almost across the board. Image: Berkeley Police Department
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Berkeley police are reporting significant increases in serious crimes including robberies, aggravated assaults and burglaries during the first half of 2015, compared to statistics from 2014.

Police officials are set to present the annual mid-year crime report to the Berkeley City Council at a special session Tuesday beginning at 5:30 p.m.

“2015 has been a challenging year for law enforcement,” police wrote in the report for council. Overall, serious crime reports increased 23% from the first six months of 2014 compared to the same period this year. The numbers do not take into account population density.

According to police, robberies increased 53%, from 108 in the first half of 2014 to 165 this year. (The numbers are still lower, however, than the 221 robberies reported in the first half of 2013, police note in the report.) Police said, this year, pedestrian robberies increased 52%, a trend that appears to have begun in late 2014 as the numbers started to push up.

Berkeleyside reported the apparent increase in robberies in mid-May, and asked for more detailed information from the Berkeley Police Department’s records bureau, which has not responded to the request despite repeated attempts to learn more about the robbery trends in the city. … Continue reading »

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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 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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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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