Bad reception

CITY AFFAIRS: Berkeley Police Chief Michael Meehan abused his authority by ordering officers out to search for his son’s stolen iPhone.

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With Father’s Day coming up, Berkeley Police Chief Michael Meehan might get a coffee mug that says, “World’s Greatest Dad.” But Meehan’s decision to use department officers to search for his son’s iPhone after it was stolen from a Berkeley High School locker room on Jan. 11 is wholly irresponsible.

The entire situation is disconcerting. In sending officers and members of the drug task force to look for the phone, Meehan unequivocally gave special privilege to his family over the average citizen. Meehan had every right to look for his son’s phone, but it is doubtful that any other person with a lost or stolen item would get the same treatment that the chief’s son received.

Ten police officers participated in the hunt while four had their shifts extended by about two hours with overtime pay. The manpower seems excessive and unnecessary to search for a phone that was taken from an unlocked locker. It cost the city $740 in overtime — a waste of our taxpayer dollars.

A May 21 Berkeley police statement claimed that Meehan did not order anyone to investigate. However, there have been “grumblings” about the search from several officers, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. That is understandable, as the police force has better things to do than search for their boss’ son’s iPhone.

The pursuit took the officers to North Oakland. Although it is a common police courtesy to alert the local police force, the Oakland Police Department was never notified. Also troubling is the fact that Meehan failed to write up a report following the incident. At the very least, his failure to follow protocol appears suspicious. But this is part of a larger trend of controversial actions by Meehan and his department.

Meehan and the police department were criticized for not responding promptly enough to a call regarding an incident in February that turned out to be a homicide — a stark contrast to the swift response to a lost cell phone. In March, Meehan came under fire for ordering an officer to an Oakland Tribune reporter’s home at close to 1 a.m. to request changes to an article. The incident helped prompt the department recently announced audit of its media policies.

We are dismayed by Meehan’s actions and worried by the fact that he has continued to make dimwitted decisions. All Berkeley residents should feel like they are being protected by the police, and they should all feel like they are treated equally. In this circumstance, Meehan’s son undeniably received preferred treatment.

And despite all the extra effort, they didn’t even find the phone.