Berkeley Police Chief Michael Meehan: at center of new storm

It cost the city of Berkeley about $740 in overtime pay to have 10 detectives search for Berkeley Police Chief Michael Meehan’s son’s missing iPhone.

Three detectives and a sergeant from the property crimes unit put in two hours of overtime each when they scoured a north Oakland neighborhood for the stolen phone on January 11, according to Sgt. Mary Kusmiss, the BPD’s public information officer. Detectives get paid $90.26 an hour in overtime pay and sergeants get $98.63 an hour. The figure does not include the regular pay for those investigating, which included members of the Drug Task Force. All together, Berkeley police officers spent about 10 hours collectively investigating this crime, said Kusmiss.

The news that a large contingent of police was sent to look for Meehan’s son’s iPhone has raised new questions among city officials about the chief’s judgment. In March, Meehan sent Kusmiss to the home of an Oakland Tribune reporter in the middle of the night to ask for a change in a story that had been posted online.

“I told the city manager that in my book you can make a mistake once, but twice, then I get very concerned,” said City Councilmember Susan Wengraf. “I was hoping this would not be a pattern. I hope this is not a pattern.”

Wengraf said she put in a call Tuesday morning to Interim City Manager Christine Daniel to ask about the iPhone investigation. She said she is holding off judgment until she gets more information and finds out the context of the decision to send 10 detectives to search for the Chief son’s iPhone. Perhaps it was part of a larger investigation into the rampant thefts of phones at Berkeley High, she said, although she acknowledged that might be wishful thinking.

Councilmember Laurie Capitelli said he has been focused on tonight’s special council meeting on the West Berkeley Project and has not yet had a chance to call the city manager about the incident, but he plans to.

“I do want to know more about it,” said Capitelli. “It certainly raises some questions.”

In a press release issued today, BPD stated that Chief Meehan was not the one instigating the search for the iPhone. “Chief Meehan did not order anyone to investigate,” read the statement. The release also addresses the question as to why Oakland police were not alerted about the investigation. “The team did not call the City of Oakland Police Department (OPD), although this is a courtesy and not required,” the statement says.

Tim Kaplan, President of the Berkeley Police Association, which represents the majority of the police officers in the department, said the BPA would not comment on the iPhone matter. The BPA did call for an independent investigation into Meehan’s March 9 decision to send Kussmiss to the home of Oakland Tribune reporter Doug Oakley.

None of the 10 detectives involved in the January 11 investigation filed a police report about their search, “an oversight that came to our attention when researching your questions,” Kusmiss said on Monday. In today’s release, BPD says filing a report for investigations “is recommended”.

Berkeleyside had been tipped off about the investigation by people concerned about what they see is a pattern of poor judgment by the chief. The Berkeley Police Association, which is involved in contract negotiations with the city, was not the source of the leak.

Officers inside the department said they do frequently investigate stolen iPhones and even search for them soon after they are taken. But a few officers were surprised by the amount of manpower devoted to this particular investigation.

Berkeley police chief sent 10 officers on hunt for son’s iPhone [05.21.12]
Berkeley will spend up to $50K after police chief blunder [05.18.12]
Berkeley City orders investigation into police chief [03.16.12]
Questions remain about Berkeley police chief’s actions [03.11.12]
At 12:45 am police chief demands reporter make changes [03.10.12]

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Berkeleyside staff

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