Police Chief Michael Meehan (second from right) at recent police awards ceremony. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel

Embattled Berkeley Police Chief Michael Meehan said Wednesday that having 10 police officers search for his son’s stolen iPhone on January 11 was not “some kind of preferential treatment,” but is something the department “would do for anybody in the city.”

“This is being cast as some kind of preferential treatment, but it was not,” said Meehan in a telephone interview. “It is not unusual for us to respond to a live track of stolen property with the resources we have available. We have done it in other cases. In this case, my son was the victim of a crime at the high school. My personal phone was linked to his and was able to track it. I showed that to a detective-sergeant and said ‘what can we do with this?’ He said we can work cases like this. He took his team to track the signal and they weren’t able to find anybody.”

The reason so many officers investigated the theft so quickly was because it was a crime in progress, said Meehan.

Meehan also said that since his phone was tracking his son’s missing iPhone, it made sense for him to go on the search. He did not think putting 10 officers on the chase was something unusual. The police department responds to crime with as many officers as they have, and that number goes up and down depending on how many people are on duty and how busy they are.

“In this case, the detective-sergeant, he made an assessment,” said Meehan. “He used the available officers that he had.”

On Tuesday, the BPD supplied Berkeleyside with examples of seven cases where anywhere between four and 11 police officers were assigned to track and locate iPhones or iPads. The cases were from the past three years. One took the police to San Francisco, and two resulted in arrests.

Meehan also said he was not aware that a police report had not been filed until Berkeleyside and the Oakland Tribune asked about it.

Since the news broke Monday evening that 10 police officers looked for Meehan’s son’s stolen iPhone, the media has descended on Berkeley, much like they did in early March when news broke that Meehan had ordered Sgt. Mary Kusmiss to go to the home of an Oakland Tribune reporter to ask him to change an incorrect story.

Meehan was not available for media interviews on Tuesday, but by Wednesday he had interview requests from dozens of Bay Area news outlets, as well as national outlets, including the Atlantic and CNN, according to Sgt. Mary Kusmiss. Even the British newspaper The Mail did a story.

Interim City Manager Christine Daniel declined to talk about the iPhone incident.

“I have no comment at this time with respect to the Chief’s involvement in the investigation into the theft of his son’s cell phone,” she said in a statement.

Daniel did announce that the investigation by San Francisco law firm Renne, Sloan, Holtzman, Sakai into Meehan’s actions in March had been completed. “Appropriate action has been taken,” she said.

The city had budgeted as much as $25,000 for the report by the law firm but the total bill was $15,502.53 said Daniel.

“The report will not be released due to state law regarding police officer privacy protections,” said Daniel.

Berkeleyside asked Chief Meehan if he would release the contents of the investigation. He said he would talk to city officials about it.

Meehan said he does not think this incident is a reflection on his judgment, as some disgruntled police officers in the department have suggested.

“The proof is in the performance,” he said.

He said the department is doing a lot of good work. Crime is down 22%, complaints are down 48%, and the diversity in the department is up. He said next week he will take some community outreach initiatives to the City Council.

“I also understand that whenever you are dealing with an agency of 280-odd people, you are never going to please everybody.”

Hunt for police chief’s son’s iPhone cost $740 in overtime [05.22.12]
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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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...