The story of the murder Peter Cukor in the North Berkeley hills combines multiple hot-button issues, and as a result has gained notice far beyond Berkeley.
You have the schizophrenic Alameda resident Daniel Dewitt roaming the streets of Berkeley looking for a fictional fiancée named Zoey who, according to his father, he made up about a year ago. His mother, Candy Dewitt, says her son has needed help for years. Instead of getting the services she feels he needed, “they’re just throwing people with mental illness onto the streets," Dewitt tells the San Francisco Chronicle, who reports:
[Dewitt’s] most recent commitment was at John George in January, after which a judge released DeWitt over the objections of his family and a psychiatrist, the elder DeWitt said.
"We advocated for him to be held there," he said. "If he would have been in custody, we wouldn't be here talking. We always had a fear of him hurting himself or going to jail or hurting someone else."
According to the Fresno Bee, California is one of the top ten states to be hit by mental health cuts. And the city of Berkeley acknowledges that it’s been affected by state and city cuts due to the economic downturn.
Then you have the police response, which, according to the timeline the police released, was delayed by about 15 minutes because of the Occupy protest. According to this story also in the San Francisoco Chronicle, about 40 people were marching from Oakland into Berkeley. Though it was a peaceful protest, all police officers were instructed to respond only to emergency calls. In fact an officer was about two minutes away from the victim’s home, but was reminded by dispatch not to respond due to the Occupy march.
Berkeley City Councilwoman, in whose district the murder took place, is demanding answers from the police.
"The residents of Berkeley need to know that public safety services are available to them 24/7," says Councilwoman Susan Wengraf.
And the San Francisco Chronicle has this to say:
One of the officers who responded after the 911 call, Jerome Cobert, had noticed Cukor's initial non-emergency call on his police-cruiser computer while driving on Shattuck Avenue, about two miles away, sources said. He volunteered to respond two to three minutes before the 911 call, the sources said.
However, a dispatcher reminded Cobert that police officials had decided to respond only to high-priority calls Saturday night because of an Occupy Oakland march that was headed up Telegraph Avenue toward UC Berkeley, sources said.
Then you have folks like the Right Scoop reporting that across the country, the Occupy protests have been wasting police resources:
LAPD has reported it’s own problems responding to calls from distressed citizens because they were otherwise “occupied” with babysitting the protesters.
So it remains a complicated issue. One readers feel very passionate about.
The last time I consulted the California Criminal Code, it was NOT a crime for a group of people to assemble in a public place for the purpose of airing grievances about the way their society is set up; it WAS a crime for a stranger to enter private property without the permission of the owner.
The police are there to enforce the criminal code.
They CHOSE to keep their entire force on stand-by in order to 'deal' with people who were not doing anything illegal.
Shelby Sampson counters with this:
We have an exceptionally good police department here, and I hate to see certain people take a tragedy like this murder and co-opt it in order to make the police look like the bad guys. (Which is right up there with what most of the Occupy people are now doing with the initially excellent protest activity.)
“Warrior Two” mentions:
Perhaps it's more important to ask why a paranoid schizophrenic was out on the streets.