Police Chief Michael Meehan has come under fire for having dispatched officers to investigate the theft of his son’s iPhone from a Berkeley High School gym locker in January, although the department is challenging details published in news reports.
By this morning, a story claiming the chief sent 10 officers in hot pursuit of the teenager’s cell phone had gone viral, getting play in the Atlantic ("If 10 Berkeley Cops Can't Get the Chief's Son's Phone Back..."), which concluded the saga proves only that the “Find Me” app is useless, and Raw Story ("Police chief demanded detectives, drug squad work overtime").
All are erroneous, public information officer Sgt. Mary Kusmiss says in an emailed statement to the press: One Sergeant and three detectives put in two hours of overtime each, for which they were paid.
The iPhone was equipped with tracking software, enabling the chief to receive in-progress tracking that showed the signal moving into Oakland -- information he shared with the property crimes detective sergeant, according to Kumiss.
The detective sergeant asked the drug task force for help, and members offered to pitch in, the statement says.
The team followed the signal to the area of 55th Street and San Pablo Avenue in North Oakland, knocking on doors in pursuit of information and dropping its probe after when none was forthcoming.
The statement denies the chief's son was the beneficiary of favoritism. In fact, the department urges residents to install tracking software in electronic devices to enable just such investigations, which at times can involve a supervisor and multiple officers “depending on the circumstances of the case and the location(s) of the signal(s)."
The failure to file a written report of the incident was an oversight, Kusmiss said. A courtesy call to the Oakland Police Department was not required, and none was made.
Meehan is out of town today. Byron Norris, the acting chair of the Berkeley Police Review Commission, had not returned calls by 11:30 a.m.
The story broke at a time when Meehan already garnered unfavorable attention for spurring a $24,000 review and overhaul of police media policies.
The city has hired Cornerstone Communications to conduct the assessment, the result of a March 9 incident in which Meehan sent Kusmiss to pay a midnight call on a reporter to request changes to a story about a murder investigation.