A police color guard stands attention at the entrance to the promotion ceremony. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel

Four officers from the Berkeley Police Department were promoted in a ceremony at Berkeley Repertory Theater on Tuesday, only the second time officers have ever been promoted in public.

Four former police chiefs, a number of city officials, off-duty cops, and dozens of friends and family gathered at the theater to watch as two officers became sergeants, one sergeant became a lieutenant, and a lieutenant became a captain.

“As August Vollmer (Berkeley’s first police chief and a pioneer in the field) once said, ‘it is by developing people that we make progress in our society,” Police Chief Michael Meehan said in his remarks to the crowd. “What was true then is true now.”

Berkeley Police Chief Michael Meehan promotes Amber Phillips to sergeant. Jeffrey Chu is promoted to sergeant, Edward Spiller is promoted to lieutenant, and Andrew Greenwood is promoted to captain. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel

Meehan said it is not easy to become a Berkeley police officer. Many apply, but few are accepted.

“Harvard has a higher acceptance rate than does the Berkeley Police Department,” he said.

Officer Amber Phillips, who joined the force in 2004, was promoted to sergeant. Officer Jeffrey Chu, who joined the force in 2002, was also promoted to sergeant. Sgt. Edward Spiller was appointed to lieutenant. And Lt. Andrew Greenwood was appointed to captain.

Prior to 2010, the police department held its promotion ceremonies in Old City Hall, or in the basement of the department, said Meehan. When he became chief in 2009, he decided to make the ceremony open to the community.

“I felt it was important for the people in the community to know who is leading our department,” said Meehan. “I wanted to make it open to the public. It was a big change for us.”

The ceremonial cake. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel

City Councilmember Kriss Worthington said he thought public recognition of the police department was important and necessary. Before Meehan took over the department, Worthington had pressed the City Council to make the promotion ceremony open to all, but he could not garner sufficient support to make it happen, he said.

The Fire Department, which last year held a promotion ceremony at the Rep, will have its public promotion ceremony on Friday.

To find out about more events in Berkeley and nearby, visit Berkeleyside’s Events Calendar. We also encourage you to submit your own events.

Frances Dinkelspiel, Berkeleyside and CItyside co-founder, is a journalist and author. Her first book, Towers of Gold: How One Jewish Immigrant Named Isaias Hellman Created California, published in November...