Somewhere out there on some cloud there's the big police operation. Yeah, it's the op to end all ops.
A big-op, Sunday, July 24, involving, reportedly, as many as 20 police vehicles, moves Berkeley police—university and city—closer to solving a string of what police call "strong-arm" robberies (robbery by sudden-snatching) near campus.
According to my reconstructed account from reliable sources and eye-witnesses, this big one started at Channing and Bowditch streets as two suspects snatched an electronics device from a student and fled towards Telegraph Avenue where university and city police initiated hot pursuit.
The cops 'n robbers parade last Sunday was sighted by two Telegraph street vendors at 4 p. m. Vendors saw the car chase at Teley and Haste. The whole megillah reached Derby and Dana streets, near Andronico's on Telegraph, according to a source who lives in that neighborhood.
According to other sources, two robbery suspects joined up with an accomplice, who awaited them with a rented get-away vehicle. But instead of getting away, the suspects crashed into another vehicle at Derby and Dana, and fled on foot, according to sources at the scene.
Because the accomplice had rented the getaway vehicle in her own name, police were able to question her, but at this writing, she is withholding the names of her cohorts—the two robbery suspects—according to a source. She may have to be "sweated," according to crime films, crime novels, and cops 'n robbers television.
Crime in Berkeley is either witnessed by the public or it is not. The recent big op was a little of both. Crime logs and crime "blotters" reflect an arresting or investigating officer's account, which the public relations officer at both Berkeley agencies digest—for their media releases—from officers' written reports unavailable to the press or public.
My yarns do not usually come from the usual official sources—but from the street.
The courts have held that police agencies need not release crime info to the public or press. Under such circumstances, they have released a lot of redacted info from officers, and should be credited.
I filled out a request form for the police report of the big op from BPD's records division last week (no response as of this writing) and was told I would receive it "soon." A university records officer said UCPD could get me a report sooner than soon.
You could say that Berkeley crime info is a controlled substance and if you say this to a records-division-officer, as I did recently at UCPD, you might get a laugh and some agreement.
In the cases of crimes not witnessed—especially if there are no injuries or no stolen property—the officer's report is based on hearsay. Officers' accounts of January's tree-sit stabbing in the Park (Planet: Jan 26, 2011) were based on accounts of two-witness-participants, who refused to testify and have left town. Hearsay?
Meanwhile the alleged stabber, Matt Dodt, continues a court fight to free himself from a stay-away order barring him from campus and the park, according to the tree-sit organizer, Zachary Running Wolf Brown.
If there is a damaged vehicle or a wound requiring hospitalization, it is safe to assume something went down and something definitely went down that foggy January morning of the People's Park "stabbing" (police version) or "poking"(suspect's version) in the park on yet another big Berkeley police op. But what really happened will continue to be disputed.
Now for some background on big ops.
The UCPD's takeover of the Med Mezzanine seeking a gun-wielding perp (Planet, June 8) was a case with many witnesses; I interviewed close to a dozen eye-witnesses for my piece.
A similar take-over at Andronico' s on Telegraph (the store was cleared of shoppers and staff while police sought a customer reportedly armed; no weapon was found). The potential eye-witnesses were Andronico’s employees who were ordered not to talk to the press.
But these cases are high-profile compared to the lonely stick-up-by-gun on sequestered Berkeley streets throughout town, according to various "crime log" websites—all hearsay.
For the Med takeover, the city of Berkeley police blocked off a block on Telegraph for up to 30 minutes; but the mother of all recent ops went down in January when a stabbing in People's Park led to a police build-up that at times involved ten officers, two command busses, a utility truck, a fire engine, an ambulance, and as many as six squad cars. A "cherry picker," or motorized-crane, made the arrest!
I was on the periphery of People's Park that night for more than three hours; the northeast corner of the park was roped off and later a block of Bowditch Street at the corner of the park was closed.
The modern history of massive Berkeley police actions starts with the 1969 People's Park riots, an army of officers from multi-agencies—"a siege" which lasted more than two weeks, holding all of Berkeley hostage, according to the documentary, "Berkeley in the Sixties."
Another really-big op involved a psychotic gunman who commandeered Henry's Pub on Durant, Sept. 28, 1990, where he held scores of students hostage. The siege at Henry's—ending in a police shootout in which the gunman was killed seven hours after he took student hostages—impacted the entire South side. As many as 10 helicopters created an "Apocalypse Now," a whirly-wind-noise tunnel that rendered life in the area buzz-headed. News helicopters hovered over South-side apartments and pricey homes endless days and nights.
The longest urban tree-sit in North America—Berkeley's Oak Grove—December 2006 to September 2008, reportedly costing the university as much as one million dollars and delaying renovation of Memorial Stadium—was as much a big one as the big one the stadium's delayed retrofit was to have redressed.
The site of the oak grove protest was turned into a circus of news helicopters, police, construction-workers, police vehicles, mayhem, and morass.
Another source told of a big op at College and Alcatraz recently in which traffic was halted and many squad cars were deployed. This source was unnerved by the event.
But what if these nervous-nellies had been at the scene of the truly big ops of the past?
The same medheads who critiqued the Med mezzanine op are now voicing similar criticisms of recent eye-popping ops.
Eye-popping or attention-grabbing, recent big ops have a long way to go to match Berkeley cops' historic big-ones.
Ted Friedman takes a bite out of his crimes from the always exhilarating Berkeley South side.