Background: On Friday, March 9th, Berkeley Police Chief Meehan sent an officer to a reporter's home at 12:45 AM, intimidating him into changing his story on recent events involving a murder and on autonomous action march by Occupy Oaklanders that occurred on February 18th.
A top-of-the-reclist diary by Horace BoothRoyd III earlier today talked about this.
But that isn't the only lapse of judgement Meehan has had.
On October 25th, 2011, after the early morning tear-gassing and beating of citizens the Oakland police are sworn to "protect and serve", Berkeley Police Chief Michael Meehan agreed to respond to a call for mutual assistance that evening in Oakland. During the events that followed, Scott Olsen was nearly killed by the Oakland Police as a result of their officers' repeated and malicious disregard for their own crowd control policies; policies agreed to in a settlement of a lawsuit begun back in 2003; policies signed on to by the Oakland Police, Oakland's then Mayor and the Oakland City Council.
If chemical agents are contemplated in crowd situations, OPD shall have medical personnel on site prior to their use...Despite knowing of these violations (or being willfully ignorant of the viral video of the flash-bang grenade lobbed at a wounded Olsen and people who had come to his aid), on January 28th, 2012, the Berkeley Police Chief again agreed to respond to a call for mutual aid by sending officers into Oakland to quell Occupy Oakland protests. Again, the Oakland Police repeatedly and maliciously disregarded their own crowd control polices -- providing no means of egress after an order to disperse; then later mass arresting hundreds of protesters in another location without a dispersal order (or at least a legally-required audible one).
The use of hand-thrown chemical agents or pyrotechnic gas dispersal devices may present a risk of... serious bodily injury from shrapnel. Said devices shall be deployed to explode at a safe distance from the crowd to minimize the risk of personal injury...
When the only violation present is unlawful assembly, the crowd should be given an opportunity to disperse rather than face arrest...Witnesses suggest that Berkeley Police were involved in these actions, leaving open the possibility of civil liberties lawsuits against Berkeley.
If after a crowd disperses pursuant to a declaration of unlawful assembly and subsequently participants assemble at a different geographic location... such an assembly cannot be dispersed unless it has been determined that it is an unlawful assembly and the required official declaration has been adequately given.
On February 18th the Berkeley Police Chief made a decision to "realign" his available units to "track" Occupy Oakland protesters sometime before 8:45 PM, despite the fact that said protesters were in downtown Oakland, had not even begun to march towards Berkeley (the march was slated to begin at 9:00 PM), and would obviously not arrive in Berkeley until after 10:00 PM. Whether this decision did or did not result in an otherwise preventable death is subject to debate; what is not subject to debate is the ridiculousness of such a decision given that the status and location of the not-yet-existent march was easily known to anyone capable of using Twitter.
What is also not subject to debate is the initial attempt by the Berkeley Police to place the blame on Occupy Oakland for the tragedy.
Despite Meehan's recent backpedalling in high gear, there is no doubt that the police were initially trying to paint Occupy Oakland with the stain of blood, albeit subtly. From a Berkeley Police Department press release soon after the event:
BPD received a report of a suspicious person possibly trespassing. The caller calmly reported an encounter with a strange person on his property, and asked for an officer to respond. This call for service was queued for dispatch.and from another report
At that time, available Patrol teams were being reconfigured in order to monitor a protest which was to come into Berkeley from Oakland in the next hour. Only criminal, in-progress emergency calls were to be dispatched, due to the reduction in officers available to handle calls for service.
... police dispatch tapes from Berkeley on February 18 -- the evening that 67-year-old Peter Cukor was (allegedly) bludgeoned to death outside his home by unmedicated schizophrenic Daniel DeWitt -- reveal that officers in the vicinity were aware of the non-emergency call Cukor placed, and were instructed not to respond because an Occupy Oakland march was headed to the UC Berkeley campus.Fact: The non-emergency call came in at right around 8:45 PM.
Fact: The march did not start until 9:00 PM.
Fact: The march left from downtown Oakland, approximately two miles from the Berkeley - Oakland border.
Fact: The march did not cross into Berkeley until after 10:00 PM, an hour after Cukor had been murdered.
Fact: The march was specifically advertised as peaceful.
On March 8th late evening or March 9th early morning, Chief Meehan decided to instruct a sergeant under his command to go to a reporter's home to intimidate said reporter into changing his story regarding the incidents that took place on February 18th and subsequent developments. Whatever the truth or falsity of the reporter's story, deciding to send a police sergeant to a man's home at 12:45 AM shows a complete lack of any sense, and a studied disregard for both the 1st and 4th Amendents to the US Constitution.
In consideration of all of this, in my esteemable opinion:
-- Chief Meehan must either resign or, failing to do so, be fired. He must be replaced by someone who appreciates what most in Berkeley acknowledge -- peaceful protesters should not be treated like criminals, nor should Berkeley waste its tax dollars and resources shoring up the Oakland police force's violations of a Federal consent decree they themselves signed.
-- Berkeley must cease and desist immediately from responding to any and all mutual aid requests that entail sending police officers into Oakland for any reason whatsoever other than natural disasters.
-- Berkeley must cease and desist immediately from responding to mutual aid requests from any other location that would involve Berkeley Police being directly or indirectly involved in "controlling" anticipated crowds of protesters without proof of ongoing violence and without proofthat the police themselves were not the triggers of such violence.
Chief Meehan continued to press for more changes to the story, said Oakley. He asked for a change to the headline and disputed another section in the story. Oakley declined to make any other changes, he said. But the chief’s persistence angered — and frightened — him.
“He doesn’t know when to stop,” said Oakley. “We both have a lot of power as a journalist and as police chief. We both have to respect that power but I think he really abused it.”
“What does that mean if the chief can send someone over to my house in the middle of the night?” said Oakley. “Who do you call when the police are after you?”