Berkeley Police Chief Michael Meehan sent of his officers to the home of Doug Oakley, a Bay Area News Group reporter, in an attempt to get the reporter to change his story. Chief Meehan didn’t like the way he was portrayed in a story and sent Sgt. Mary Kusmiss to his home at 12:45 AM. She had been ordered by Chief Oakley to “request” that he change a story he had written.
When the Sgt. Arrived at the home her repeated knocking woke the entire family, including Mr. Oakley’s wife sand two small children ages three and five.
Oakley’s first concern was that something bad had happened to a relative, but he was instead told he needed to change his story about a rowdy community meeting that Chief Meehan had attended the night before. The Chief’s representative made it known the Chief wanted the story changed “right now.” But Oakley explained the story couldn’t be altered even if he wanted to until morning.
After Sgt. Kusmiss left, Oakley’s knees started shaking and he had a panic attack.
His fear was generated by wondering what might have happened if someone who was less understanding had been sent by the Berkeley Police Chief. Did the Chief plan to send more armed officers to the reporter’s door every time he felt like having a story changed?
The Interim City Council Manager, Christine Daniel said, “There was no justification for contacting the reporter in this way and that a more appropriate response to his concerns should have been to wait until the following day to make contact by phone or by email.”
People have expressed their concern and outrage around Berkeley from Officer Tom Kaplin, who is the head of the Police Officers Union, to residents who call for his resignation, to Peter Sussman, a Berkeley First Amendment advocate who suggested it was police intimidation pure and simple, however he intended it.