New Police Chief Brings Experience to City's Force

Photo: The city of Berkeley's new police chief Michael Meehan, a 23-year veteran  of the Seattle Police Department, is known for his community-based approach to law enforcement. Meehan was confirmed by the city council on Nov. 10 and will officially start on Dec. 13.
Andrew Taylor/Courtesy
The city of Berkeley's new police chief Michael Meehan, a 23-year veteran of the Seattle Police Department, is known for his community-based approach to law enforcement. Meehan was confirmed by the city council on Nov. 10 and will officially start on Dec. 13.

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Berkeley's new police chief, Captain Michael Meehan of the Seattle Police Department, is known for his community-based approach to policing, a style local officials believe is well-suited to the city.

Meehan, a 23-year veteran of the Seattle Police, was confirmed by the Berkeley City Council Nov. 10 and will officially start the position on Dec. 13. Meehan oversees SPD's Violent Crimes Section, and has previously commanded the Narcotics Section, the city's East Precinct, Field Training and Audit, Vice, and Accreditation and Policy sections.

Berkeley City Manager Phil Kamlarz, who selected Meehan after a nationwide search, said in a report that Meehan's previous experience in Seattle provided a strong foundation for his new role.

"He has worked his entire career in law enforcement in a diverse urban environment and has focused on innovative and community-based crime prevention strategies," Kamlarz said.

Deputy City Manager Christine Daniel said because Seattle is home to the University of Washington, Meehan is familiar with policing around a large university.

"We feel that his experience (in Seattle) is directly relevant to what he'll be working on here," she said.

Daniel said Meehan's commitment to community-involved policing was evidenced by the captain's participation in a mid-1990s pilot program that partnered the Seattle Police with community developers in the city's International District.

Then a sergeant, Meehan and other officers worked with the Seattle Chinatown International District Preservation and Development Authority-or SCIDpda-to improve public safety in the area.

SCIDpda Chief Operations Officer Michael Yee, who worked with Meehan during the program's initial years, said Meehan's willingness to eschew traditional police response strategies in favor of a more community-oriented approach was unusual in the department and greatly benefited the area.

"There was a problematic cafe that had a history of violent stabbings and drive-by shootings," Yee said. "The police, working with the community, contacted the landlords and put pressure on them ... to make a change."

Despite internal pressure from some police officials to abandon the program, Meehan maintained the community partnership, Yee said.

Yee also praised Meehan for his ability to work in different ethnic communities that harbored distrust of the police.

"Mike Meehan clearly showed that you can have Caucasian officers come into a community of color ... (and) that if you generally care about finding solutions with the community, people will talk to you and work with you," Yee said.

Later, as a commander of the East Precinct between 2004 and 2005, Meehan aided neighborhood communities plagued with drug dealing and prostitution, according to residents.

Stephanie Tschida, chair of the East Precinct Crime Prevention Coalition, said she used to meet with Meehan at least twice a month at community meetings.

"He respects the community and the stakeholders within it, and he works really well on that level," she said.

Andrew Taylor, chair of the Miller Park Neighborhood Association, said that Meehan was supportive of community efforts to improve the neighborhood, which Taylor said had trouble with street crime emanating from a local bar called Deano's Cafe & Lounge.

According to Taylor, Meehan brought important resources to the neighborhood, including a lieutenant, that helped form an ongoing outreach effort at the problematic bar.

"He did as a captain what captains do: He brought in other resources to the efforts," Taylor said.

Tschida also said Meehan made significant accomplishments as commander of Seattle's Narcotics Section, including the bust of a Colombian drug operation in the city's Belltown neighborhood and his participation in the Drug Market Initiative, a program that offers low-level drug criminals a choice to give up dealing as an alternative to prison time.

Berkeley police Officer Andrew Frankel said Meehan recently met with the Berkeley Police Department's command staff and members of the Berkeley Police Association.

"We're looking forward to him getting on board and into the position," Frankel said.


Contact Michael Garcia at [email protected]

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