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As Berkeley Questions BPD Over Hills "Murder," and Cops Blame Occupy, We Offer Some Answers (News Analysis)

By Ted Friedman
Wednesday February 22, 2012 - 09:54:00 AM

Berkeley police have reportedly said they were "monitoring" an Occupy Oakland-Occupy Cal protest, which arrived on Telegraph from Oakland at 10:25 p.m. Saturday, more than an hour after a "murder" in the hills.

Two of my Planet articles written on Sunday, cast doubt on that. One article covered the Saturday Oakland-Cal demo, and another covered an anti-Bank of America protest on Telegraph. I was at both protests.

Cop-count: on upper Telegraph at noon, Saturday, as the BA protest began: zero, 0, zip. Cop-count at 10:20 p.m., on lower Teley, when Occupy Oakland arrived to unite with Occupy Cal, blocking traffic and chanting "Fuck the police": zero, 0, zip. 

A massive police response to the hills murder—Berkeley's second of the year—apparently thinned police ranks Saturday, on what seemed a busy policing day. 

BPD Cop-count at International House, 11:30 p.m., as the protest was about to end peacefully: twelve officers who buzzed the event in three command vehicles. 

It's remarkable that BPD showed up at Cal, since UCPD had twelve of its own officers defending I-House, where a conference at which some Occupy members were speaking was underway. 

OC and OO had united that evening. Now BPD was uniting with UCPD. 

The twelve man BPD show-of-force squad did not return. 

A BPD robbery detail at San Pablo and University Saturday night, was described by a witness as possibly twenty cars, but more likely no more than six 

But BPD, perhaps recovering from staffing demands by 12:15 a.m., showed up outside Moe's Books, on Teley, to investigate a robbery. 

Berkeley police had their hands full with the murder in the hills, which undoubtedly caused them not to monitor the arrival of OO on Telegraph, although, they might have kept an eye out by watching "You Stream," a radical live stream of the event, or by using police dispatches from Oakland—or through a clandestine stakeout. 

District 6 Councilmember Susan Wengraf interrupted our telephone interview Tuesday afternoon to face the cameras at a hastily arranged press conference at her Northside Berkeley home. Berkeley's second murder of the year was the hook. 

Wengraf tells me it's "the murder in the hills angle" that has caused the media stampede. Meanwhile, Wengraf assures her district 6 constituents they can count on "24/7 police protection," even if some might say they reside in Berkeley hills mansions, where they are, admittedly, remote from hoi polloi below. 

Wengraf has requested 911 logs and other police records in an attempt to untangle the mysteries surrounding BPD's response to a brutal murder on Shasta Rd., in Berkeley's Park Hills neighborhood. 

"If necessary, I'll use the freedom of information act to get the information I need " to figure out what happened that night, the determined councilwoman said. 

A preliminary investigation suggests the crime was committed by a mentally ill man, off his medications. "Our whole system is broken," she lamented. 

She responded to a question on the mood of the neighborhood. "I don't think anyone's hysterical at this point," she said. People understand, "but they want answers." 

The 162-officer Berkeley police department reportedly has 11 vacant positions, since 2009 budget cuts forced the city to reduce its workforce by 210 employees—mostly through attrition. 

How many officers were available for duty Saturday will be difficult—perhaps impossible—to learn. 

Would eleven new hires have helped police improve on a day like Saturday, when they did a pretty darned good job with the men they deployed? 

Ted Friedman reports from Southside.