Chief Meehan: damaged reputation after two and a half years on the job

Recent actions by Berkeley Police Chief Michael Meehan have damaged his standing, but the department’s reputation has not been overly tarnished and there is not strong demand for Meehan to apologize. These are the main findings of our “Berkeley Police Chief” Reader Poll, which we launched on Friday and kept open over the Memorial Day weekend.

We had 301 respondents to the poll, which was designed to take the pulse of the community rather than be scientific. Many of you qualified your votes with comments.

Sixty percent of you felt the January incident in which Meehan sanctioned sending ten officers to Oakland to look for his teenage son’s stolen iPhone, and the March incident in which he sent an officer to a reporter’s home in the middle of the night to correct a story, had sullied the Chief’s reputation. Only 38% felt the department’s reputation had been damaged as a result, however. Although a number of readers called on the Chief to resign, many felt there was a clear distinction between the boss and the rank and file. “It is possible to be very proud of BPD and at the same time very embarrassed of Meehan,” wrote Berkeleyan in the comments.

Twenty three percent of those surveyed trust the Berkeley police as much as they did before, while 25% of respondents trust the police less than before the recent revelations. Only 14% of those surveyed were satisfied with Meehan’s explanation of the iPhone incident, in which he argued it did not constitute preferential treatment, and only 5% felt there was a clear way for the Chief to move on from the storm.

Forty four percent of those surveyed agreed Chief Meehan should release the findings of the independent report that was made into the Doug Oakley incident. The $15,500 report, by San Francisco law firm Renne, Sloan, Holtzman, Sakai, was completed recently according to Interim City Manager Christine Daniel, who said “appropriate action” had been taken, and that she had no intention of making it public.

As with all such snapshot-polls, many questions you would have liked to see addressed were not included, and some of those that were included were deemed to be flawed. A couple of readers pointed out that it was impossible to judge whether two lapses in judgment were part of a larger pattern.

Several readers pointed to the fact, mentioned by Berkeleyside in its extensive coverage of the Meehan storm, that the Berkeley Police are currently in contract negotiations and that this may color opinions, including those of the anonymous sources who triggered some of the pertinent revelations in the media.

A significant number of commenters said they were happy with the Berkeley police department. First-time online commenter JJ said: “I do believe that recent incidents demonstrate lapses of judgement on Chief Meehan’s part. I also believe that media portrayal (although not necessarily Berkeleyside’s) of recent BPD actions — including the Cukor incident — have sensationalized the events. Notwithstanding any of the foregoing, the main point I want to convey is this: in spite of recent events, overall, I think the Berkeley Police Department is doing a great job.”

Meehan, who was sworn in as Chief in January 2010, is presenting a progress report tonight to the City Council regarding the department’s engagement with the community. The report covers the introduction of an online crime reporting system and enhancements to the department’s website that, among other things, make it easier to see the department’s command structure and apply for a job. The police department is also introducing an upgraded crime data mapping system that they say will be more up to date then those used in the past.

Also on tonight’s City Council agenda: Mayor Tom Bates intends to recommend that Christine Daniel be appointed City Manager.

Reader Poll: What next after Berkeley Police Chief storm? [05.25.12]
Berkeley police chief: “Not some kind of preferential treatment” [05.23.12]
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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Tracey Taylor is co-founder of Berkeleyside and co-founder and editorial director of Cityside, the nonprofit parent to Berkeleyside and The Oaklandside. Before launching Berkeleyside, Tracey wrote for...