Berkeley Police Chief Chief Michael Meehan: Resign, Or Be Fired

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29 Responses

  1. BL1Y says:

    "12:45 in the morning"

    There's a 12:45 at night, and a 12:45 in the afternoon, but 12:45 in the morning? I hope to never have whatever crazy work schedule has led you to discover this bizarre hour.

  2. Ken says:

    I sent an email to the police department.

    Dear Berkeley Police Department:

    Please see the link to a post calling for Chief Meehan's resignation or termination:

    http://www.popehat.com/2012/03/12/berkeley-police-chief-chief-michael-meehan-resign-or-be-fired/

    It's probably inconvenient for any of your officers to drive to my house to threaten me in the middle of the night, since I live in Southern California. Your best bet is to send them on Southwest from Oakland to Burbank. If you take the latest flight, they can swing by my place in time to bang on my door at 12:45 a.m., get some something to eat at a diner, and take the first flight back up.

    Cheers,

    etc.

  3. Al says:

    Both Chief Meehan and Sgt. Kusmiss should be fired although I could see some other disciplinary action (such as a reduction in rank) being appropriate in Kusmiss' case.

    My bet: Meehan and Berkley lay low for a while and hope that the story doesn't gain traction. If it does then Kusmiss gets thrown under the bus before Meehan goes.

  4. Ken says:

    Okay, fine. 12:45 a.m.

  5. mojo says:

    "Hey, you in there! Your grass needs edging! Get out here and do it, now!"

  6. "…is _not_ something that we expect in Syria or Egypt or Iran…"

    Typo.

  7. EH says:

    Fire both of them for cause. Take away their union benefits, so they can appreciate how normal people have to live.

    The question that keeps occurring to me in this story is, "how did he find out where the reporter lived?"

  8. CTrees says:

    The story answers your question, EH: " Oakley, whose address is listed online…"

  9. Linus says:

    "12:45 in the morning" is exactly the same as "12:45 a.m.", so Ken's original structure is fine. Nothing like misguided pedantry.

    I can't help but think of xkcd's "Someone is wrong on the internet!" guy, but with a gun and a badge. Leaving aside the thuggery, the "story" was so dadgum important that it can't wait until morning? Really? What are you, 12?

    I fear the 12-year-old tyrant almost as much as the moral do-gooder tyrant.

  10. SPQR says:

    Thugs be thugs.

  11. Cathy says:

    I don't know. I certainly get the "WTF YOU DID WHAT???" outrage. And I get why this egregious error of judgment creates the concern that his judgment could be subsequently misplaced in the future.

    But Meehan seems to be awakening to the "OMG I DID WHAT???" realization, and if he fully does, and if he's sufficiently contrite, I'm not sure I'd necessarily want his head. I'd like to see how capably he's managed the department and what his overall track record has been towards citizen civil liberties. If it's generally positive (or, hell, even generally tolerable) I think a second chance could be appropriate. I'm way more concerned by the police who do vastly worse things with vastly less regret. They are the ones who need the stiffest sanctions.

    On the other hand, some sanction would still be appropriate in order for it to have a deterrent effect on other wayward police chiefs who might be tempted to do the same thing on their watch. But it should be a sanction that's balanced and merciful and not one-sized-fits-all-scorched-earth-punitive. The criminal justice system could really stand to benefit from a lot more of that kind of tempered reaction in general, and I think that's true even here.

  12. Sean Connery says:

    I'm not sure what Kusmiss really deserves by way of punishment here. It's not clear that this is an illegal practice; I suppose it could be considered harassment, but that might be a stretch. Perhaps I'm missing something, and if Kusmiss was obeying an unlawful order, then she deserves punishment.

    Short of that, I'm not sure that we want officers to substitute their own judgment for their orders.

  13. C. S. P. Schofield says:

    Michael Meehan should be tarred, feathered, and ridden out of town on a rail. The real pity is that, with all the self-identified Liberals and Activists in the Berkeley area, it seems unlikely that any of them have the necessary guts.

  14. steve says:

    I think Sgt. Kusmiss should be disciplined but only lightly. My reasoning is that if she would have absolutely refused her orders then she would have at least potentially paid a heavy career price while actually saving her boss from his current troubles. Her carrying out the orders has exposed her boss to the criticism he deserves. I consider this an important point.

    I would say that given the knowledge she knew she wouldn't actually use force, her ideal response would have been to lodge a complaint with someone like the internal affairs department and carry out her orders.

  15. Ken says:

    Not only should both Meehan and Kusmiss be fired, both should forfeit their LEO commissions (in other words, they never get to take a public paycheck for wearing a public badge anywhere again). Both of them. The Nuremberg defense is nonsensical.

    Pour encourager les autres. Way past time. For evidence, spend a day or two reading Radley Balko.

  16. EH says:

    steve: why would the union have sided with the chief in your scenario? they're the gatekeepers for the process you're talking about. Also, she doesn't have to obey illegal orders.

  17. EH says:

    Cathy: that he would even countenance this behavior makes him a bad cop. Good riddance to bad trash, if he's allowed to continue in his position it will poison the whole department. You can't claim "one bad apple" when they're sitting at the top, much less when that apple turns out to be an onion taped to a branch.

  18. Now if only somebody could have gotten him on record saying something along the lines of, "Who will rid me of this troublesome reporter?"

  19. Bruce says:

    There's some similarities with the TSA story this week too. The need to ensure that "accurate" information being presented about an agency by heavy-handed and misguided pressure applied by that agency.

    Both Meehan and Koshetz use the exact same phrase in their justification for stepping over the line.

  20. Jess says:

    I don't answer the door no matter who is knocking at that hour. If you don't have an appointment and aren't expected I don't answer the door – period. That's what the freaking phone is for.

  21. AlphaCentauri says:

    I don't think Kusmiss was so out of line. She had to make a decision without a lot of people to call upon for advice. It's not unreasonable for her to conclude that having a non-threatening female to go to the door of a reporter, apologize profusely, and then give him a juicy scoop was the least distasteful choice. I don't think many people become reporters if they're easily intimidated and want other people to filter information before they get it.

  22. TJIC says:

    @AlphaCentauri

    > I don't think Kusmiss was so out of line. She had to make a decision without a lot of people to call upon for advice.

    So you're argument is …what? The chief shouldn't be blamed for being an idiot, because there was no one around to tell a grown man not to act like a Soviet era jackbooted thug?

    Is it overly bold to suggest that PEOPLE SHOULD KNOW THIS even without advisers to remind them of it every moment of the day?

  23. Will says:

    cops have done a lot of f#&$#* stupid things, but wow – this guy was certainly a high achiever. Problem is disipiline is usually only for citizens, not cops. I hope he actually faces some consequences but I wouldn't count on it.

  24. Scott Jacobs says:

    @TJIC

    Alpha is talking about the cop, not the chief.

  25. Meehan may also have been particularly cranky that day from having one too many people mistaking him for Willem Dafoe and telling him they loved his portrayal of the Green Goblin in Spiderman.

  26. Mark says:

    Google has 450 hits for the exact phrase "12:45 in the morning". Don't let people talk you out of perfectly good English because they've decided to parse a 2 hundred year-old idiom literally. Everything after 12:00 midnight is both late at night and early in the morning. They aren't exclusive concepts.

    Keep in mind that "A.M." stands for Ante Meridian or "Before Noon". Not "After Midnight". ;-)

    All that said, my actual comment: the "Chief of Thugs" needs to go but the press officer just needs her backbone checked. If he stays in office that reporter gets to refer to him for the next year as "The recently-thugish Police Chief Meehan." That's only fair, right?

  27. Mandy says:

    I have a question about police generally. Do they really not get how their presence can be deemed threatening to others, or are they being disengenuous? When judges talk like that ("any reasonable person would know that they are free to leave a traffic stop if they are just a passenger..they can just walk away") I think they are just clueless as to how everyone else lives. But are police that way? Or are they just feigning ignorance?

  28. marco73 says:

    All you need to know about the chief you can see in his publicity photo. Four freakin stars – who does he think he is, Patton?
    You are the police chief of piss-ant Berkley, not liberator of Nazi Germany.
    This guy won't resign, and the city won't fire him. His ego is too big.
    As for Sgt. Kusmiss, come on, if you are going to work in P.R., whenever a higher up wants to skewer themselves, you just need to ask them to Google "Streisand effect." Your job is more about talking your people back in off the ledge, than following stupid orders.
    Sgt. Kusmiss may get a letter on file, but there will be absolutely no financial or career penalties.

  29. Brad says:

    BPD has 160 officers. That might — and I use that modifier in its most expansive sense — rate a major. More likely, assuming no padding in the supervisory ranks, that's a captain.