Berkeley police Chief Michael Meehan resigns

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Berkeley Police Department Chief Michael Meehan resigned Tuesday amid internal and public criticism of his departmental leadership.

Meehan’s resignation was effective as of Tuesday, according to city spokesperson Matthai Chakko. According to George Perezvelez, the chair of the Police Review Commission, Meehan will still be considered a sworn officer of BPD until Oct. 14. In his letter of resignation, Meehan did not state a specific reason for his decision.

“While there is no good time to leave an organization you have such respect and admiration for, there is a right time and I believe, after discussing with my family, the time is now,” Meehan wrote in his letter.

In a memo to Berkeley City Council sent Wednesday morning, City Manager Dee Williams-Ridley accepted Meehan’s resignation and announced her appointment of Capt. Andrew Greenwood as acting police chief.

“We are grateful for Chief Meehan’s nearly seven years of service to Berkeley. During that time, the department has grown in many ways,” Williams-Ridley wrote in the memo.

Under Meehan, the BPD was the first department in Alameda County to implement Crisis Intervention Training as well as increase overall transparency about crime data. The death of Kayla Moore and the December Black Lives Matter protests also occurred under his tenure.

Meehan was appointed police chief in December 2009. In recent years, he has faced significant criticism from both his staff and the general public. Recently released emails sent by Meehan revealed that his employees were particularly frustrated with his lack of presence and overall performance, based on the results of an internal survey.

Andrea Prichett, a founding member of Copwatch, was not that surprised by Meehan’s resignation in light of the negative performance reviews from the internal survey. Prichett added that she hopes the new police chief will move the department away from its militaristic direction. BPD spends 35 percent of its time responding to mental health calls, according to Prichett, and yet spends much of its resources preparing for emergency crises.

“It seems like new leadership will help the department transition to more of a community service model that isn’t so fixated on acquiring a hardware and weaponry and that is more about training our police to respond to the actual needs that exist in the community and not the imagined ones,” Prichett said.

Perezvelez, however, said he was shocked by Meehan’s announcement.

“It’s very sudden,” Perezvelez said. “My concern is that now Berkeley joins San Francisco and Oakland as being a city without a full chief — that all three cities have acting chiefs. … I didn’t think this would happen in my tenure.”

Meehan is the fourth police chief in the Bay Area to leave their position since May.

In a press release, Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates expressed his gratitude for Meehan’s years of service to BPD and acknowledged the difficulties facing police officers today.

“This is a tough time for policing across the nation and Berkeley will continue to look for innovative ways to address current policing issues,” Bates said in his press release. “I am confident that Acting Chief Greenwood will bring a wealth of experience and skill set that will serve the community and the Department well.”

Neither Meehan nor Greenwood were available for comment.

Although Perezvelez said Meehan’s reasons were “a personal matter,” he speculated that after seven years as police chief, Meehan may be considering retirement in the near future.

Chakko said that while Meehan’s reasons for resigning were personal and he could not speak to them, Chakko was confident in Greenwood’s ability to serve as acting chief. As captain, Greenwood oversaw the investigations division and, most recently, the operations division.

“(Greenwood’s) got extensive experience in the department. He’s had a number of different leadership roles,” Chakko said. “He’s lived in Berkeley his whole life, he’s got very strong relationships with the community. He’s very dedicated to the department and the community. He’ll do very well.”

Prichett said she hoped that because Greenwood is from Berkeley, as BPD chief, he will be more in tune with the community’s needs.

“What we have coming up is the trial for the officers who are involved in the death of Kayla Moore,” Prichett said. “I think that that tragic death, that killing by police, really demonstrates the incredible need for our police department to take a different track and a new direction that is about preventing harm. And I’m eager to see if Captain — now Chief — Greenwood can make that happen.”

Chantelle Lee covers crime and courts. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @ChantelleHLee.