Berkeley Police Chief’s Free Speech Battle Continues
The controversy surrounding Berkeley police chief Michael Meehan isn’t going away. Local journalists are asking for more information about Meehan’s decision to send a police spokeswoman to the Berkeley home of a reporter after midnight to change a line in an article referencing Meehan.
I followed up with City Councilman Kriss Worthington yesterday to see what the council thinks of Meehan’s behavior. Worthington said the city charter prohibits the council from interfering with personnel matters. But he said he expects to receive a report on the late-night visit–and the police response to the 911-call preceding the killing of Peter Cukor, which prompted the article in the first place–the from the city manager.
“This police chief has an incredible string of accomplishments in addressing pension reform, cutting overtime, meeting with [University of California] control staff on a monthly basis,” Worthington said. “For the past two years, council members have seen significant improvements in the police department… all those things weigh in the balance.”
KQED reported earlier this month that the city manager hired a law firm to look into the matter, after the police union called for an independent investigation. The Bay Citizen quotes Jim Ewert, general counsel of the California Newspaper Publishers’ Association, criticizing Meehan’s actions.
“It’s probably the most intimidating of all types of prior restraint or censorship that can be exercised… It may have just been an exercise of bad judgment, but I think the citizens of Berkeley should scrutinize his future conduct pretty closely.”