Summary of Community Meeting on Crime and the 2/18/12 Homicide
Northbrae Community Church.
Councilmember Susan Wengraf, District 6
Councilmember Laurie Capitelli, District 5
Berkeley Police Chief Michael Meehan
Police Area Coordinator Officer Byron White
Supervising Dispatcher, Alan Lauborough
Councilmember Wengraf introduced the participants and explained the process for submitting questions to them.
Chief Meehan said it was the responsibility of the Police Department to provide correct and timely information to the community. He apologized for the department for not “getting out ahead of this story,” for not getting information out quickly enough which allowed misinformation to circulate in the community. He said the following widely held assumptions were not true:
- Police were blaming Occupy Oakland for the crime. BPD had prepared for unexpected circumstances related to a public demonstration in a standard way. The same circumstances could have been in play with any demonstration, large-scale event or breaking crime that required extra resources.
- Police were kept on standby while there was a crime in process. The original call was not considered to be a crime in progress. When the second call came in, the 911 call, the police were dispatched within a minute. (See timeline below.)
- The homicide could have been prevented if the volunteering officer had been allowed to respond to the call. The officer at Cedar and Shattuck offered to respond to one of three calls, including a house fire on Vincente. Even if he had been directed to respond to the Cukor’s call he would not have arrived in time to intervene and prevent the homicide.
Timeline of 2/18/12 event:
8:43: Patrol officers were put on “emergency calls only.”
8:47: The first non-emergency call came in from the Cukors stating that there was a suspicious person around their property.
8:59: A beat officer at Cedar and Shattuck sees 5 waiting calls, including a fire on Vincente Ave. and one other non-emergency call. He offers to respond to fire or one of the other calls and he is told not to.
9:01: Second call from the Cukors, this time to 911, crime in progress.
Note: The volunteering officer was around the corner from the other non-emergency call. If he was allowed to respond he might well have gone to that site. If he had been sent to Park Gate, he would not have arrived in time to prevent the crime. (Takes at least 5 minutes to drive up there from Shattuck and Cedar.)
9:02: BPD declares Code 3. Officers are dispatched to an emergency.
9:06: BPD Sergeant requests the Fire Department “be available” for back up.
9:08: Berkeley Fire is dispatched to scene.
9:08: First Police car arrives at the scene.
9:18: First Fire personnel arrive at the scene.
9:22: Suspect is arrested.
There are 176 authorized sworn positions in the Berkeley Police Department. Currently there are 164 sworn officers. The BPD anticipates the next group of recruits, currently in training, will be ready to fill out the remaining positions by this summer.
Supervising Dispatcher Alan Lauborough explained that “911” and non-emergency, “981-5900,” calls go to the same dispatchers. The dispatchers are trained to ask very detailed questions to determine whether the call is an emergency, crime in progress (Priority 1), or a non-emergency (Priority 2). If the Dispatcher determines there is a crime in progress, he/she will continue to ask questions of the caller, but will simultaneously dispatch officers to the scene. It is very important that the caller continue to answer questions until the dispatcher is finished.
Depending upon the call, questions include:
- Where is the incident?
- What exactly is happening? What do you see and hear?
- Are there any weapons you can indentify?
- In what direction are the perpetrators heading?
- Can you describe them and what they are wearing?
- Are there any injuries? Is an ambulance required?
911 calls made from landlines go directly to the Berkeley Police dispatcher.
911 calls made from cell phones are routed to the California Highway Patrol in Vallejo. There can often be a significant lag time before the call is routed back to Berkeley for response.
Calling in an emergency from a cell phone: use 510-981-5911.
This will go directly to BPD. Program this number into your cell phone.
Dispatcher Lauborough described the 9 to 12 month training program for dispatchers. They are exposed to all aspects of the job including how to assess whether a call is a Priority 1 call.
When a call is determined to be Priority 1, the dispatcher alerts the Police Desk. They determine the number of cars and officers needed to respond. Officers are dispatched to the scene, with lights and sirens depending upon situation.
(This may be happening while the initiating call is still in process.)
Area Coordinator Officer Byron White described the beat configuration in northeast Berkeley. There are four beats: 1, 2, 3 and 18. During peak daytime hours, there is a beat officer for every beat. During non-peak nighttime hours, there is one beat officer for every two beats. The shifts are staggered to maintain coverage.
(To see who your beat officers are, go to Assignment list of Beat Officers.)
When interacting with someone you suspect may be mentally ill:
- Stay in a location of safety.
- Call Police. If you are unsure it is an emergency, call 911 or 510-981-5911 from your cell phone.
Councilmembers Capitelli and Wengraf read questions submitted by the meeting attendees. Questions and answers can be found at:
Q & A regarding the 2/18/12 homicide
Q & A regarding crime and police response.