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Press Release: Police Union Calls for a Formal Investigation of Chief Meehan “Error in Judgment” in 12:45 a.m. Visit to Reporter’s Home

From Officer Tim Kaplan, Rocky Lucia, Mary Jo Rossi
Friday March 16, 2012 - 08:40:00 AM

Citing the lack of review of Berkeley Police Chief Michael Meehan’s self-subscribed error in judgment as a double standard and serious disregard for Department policy, the Berkeley Police Association (BPA) today called for a formal investigation of the incidents that culminated in Meehan’s order to have a police sergeant make a 12:45 a.m. visit to the home of Oakland Tribune reporter Doug Oakley to demand that he change a newspaper story. 

On behalf of the BPA, attorney Rocky Lucia of Rains Lucia Stern, PC delivered a letter today to Berkeley City Manager Christine Daniel requesting a full outside independent investigation of the events that occurred on March 9 when Meehan ordered Sergeant Mary Kusmiss to the newspaper reporter’s home at 12:45 a.m. to request that a story on a recent Berkeley homicide be altered. 

Meehan has been quoted in numerous press articles stating: “It was a significant error of judgment on my part.” (Berkeleyside, March 11, 2012) “My actions do not reflect the values of the Berkeley Police Department.” (Chief Meehan Official Statement, Berkeleyside, March 10, 2012) 

“If a police officer uses poor judgment and violates Department policy, he is placed on administrative leave and is fully investigated,” said Officer Tim Kaplan, President of the 160-member BPA. “As law enforcement officers, we don’t just get to say ‘I’m sorry’ and have the whole matter go away.” 

The three page letter (attached) sent to the City on behalf of the BPA reads: “The Berkeley Police Department, through its Chief of Police, has been eager to investigate and discipline officers while espousing zero tolerance at many levels for violations of policy and procedures. “Moreover, the Chief of Police has demanded that the members of the Police Department perform at the highest levels and constantly insists that accountability be a necessary component to the delivery of police services to the citizens of Berkeley.” 

“There needs to be full transparency and there can’t be a standard that applies to the police force, but not to the Chief of Police,” Kaplan added. 

The letter further states: “The media accounts and the Chief’s own admissions and apologies to various members of the Police Department seem to confirm that the order to Sergeant Kusmiss was not only inappropriate, but in violation of professional standards.” “It is appalling that the City of Berkeley has seen fit to simply allow this incident to slide into a media graveyard without further examination or review.” 

The letter demands an outside independent investigation into the following possible departmental policy violations: (1) misconduct/supervisory and command officer responsibility; (2) reporting misconduct; (3) general responsibilities of officers and employees; (4) courtesy; (5) acts – statements by employees; and, (6) function of the Chief of Police. 

“The citizens of Berkeley rightfully demand at every level complete transparency and full accountability of its police officers and should expect nothing less from their Chief of Police,” Kaplan said. “The City can’t just sweep this or any other potential policy violation under the rug.”