Update: This article has been updated with Chief Meehan's response
In a packed meeting hall at Northbrae Community Church, Chief Michael Meehan denied that his department diverted police officers from Peter Cukor’s house on the night of murder.
Cukor, 67, by a on February 23. At the time, a Berkeley police sergeant said that an officer was told not to respond to Cukor’s call because of an Occupy protest. This caused a stir from, as media outlets around the world picked up on the story.
But at tonight’s town meeting, Chief Meehan said this all this was untrue.
Speaking into a microphone, he told the audience, “First thing I want to do is read a few statements from the media. And I want to ask you, if you’ve heard these statements before. The police have blamed Occupy? Anybody hear that?”
The audience said, yes they’d heard those statements.
He then asked, “The police were kept on standby?”
The audience again affirmed they’d heard that.
Finally, he asked if they’d heard, “This could have been prevented if we’d allowed that officer to go up that hill?”
Again, a resounding yes.
“Not one of those things is accurate, or true,” Meehan said emphatically. “Not once did we say any of those things, in public or in private, to the media or anyone else.”
And yet on Tuesday, February 21, Lt. Andrew Greenwood of the Berkeley police department sent out a press release that started, “Greetings Media Colleagues.”
It went on to say that, “At [the time of the murder], available patrol teams were being reconfigured in order to monitor a protest march.”
Greenwood wrote, “only criminal, in-progress emergency calls were to be dispatched, due to the reduction in officers available to handle calls for service.”
The march Greenwood referred to was one where Occupy protesters were coming into Berkeley from Oakland.
“Concerns about the potential for violence associated with the march resulted in plans to allocate officers to monitor the march,” Greenwood’s press release said.
This would seem to strongly suggest that the Occupy march did in fact change what is normally the Berkeley Police Department's standard operating procedure.
But Meehan said the information had been inaccurately reported in the media, and then re-reported inaccurately many times over.
Meehan went on to say that he had about a dozen officers at the ready so that the Berkeley Police Department “would continue to have sufficient staffing to handle emergency calls.”
While there were some officers preparing to respond to an “f- the police” march, according to Meehan, the Berkeley Police Department “fully maintained the ability to respond to emergency calls.”
Correction: Andrew Greenwood is a lieutenant in the Berkeley Police Department. A pervious version of this article incorrectly identified him as a sergeant.