Known by Berkeley Police

by Steed Dropout
April 17, 2015

Arrest Happens. Photo by Ted Friedman.


[Make is cop talk: to surveil]

Call us a cop town, with two police forces: city and university.

Berkeley cops of renown, even before the Peoples Park “riots” of 1969. Founding Chief Vollmer put BPD in the public-eye by hiring the first women cops at the turn of the 20th century…bike patrols, fingerprinting…criminology milestones.

What are they doing now?

Watching us. We’re watching them back.

You know they’re watching you as they cruise Telegraph Avenue repeatedly. Forty percent of Berkeley crime calls come from these few blocks on Telegraph.

They profile us and we profile them back; the fun cops and the less-fun. Berkeley cops are people you want to hang-out with even if they may arrest you. Transients arrested in Berkeley give their Berkeley busts high marks–one of those best-of awards: Berkeley, Best Town to be Busted in.

Cops have come to know Berkeley Reporter as a pesky press photographer and reporter. Reporter has done some crazy things with Berkeley cops.


Mar. 10, 2012 was a bad night for Chief Michael K. Meehan and later for me. The chief sent his armed department spokeswoman to a reporter’s home after midnight to “correct” some reporter’s (not mine) story. The chief had just sweet-talked a mob at a Berkeley church in the aftermath of a rare murder in Berkeley’s Beverly hills. After international media picked up this grizzly Berzerkeley murder story near Grizzley Peak, there was a mood of frenzy and bedevilment in the air.

Maybe that will explain what I did at Berkeley Police Headquarters. Maybe I was jealous that some other reporter grabbed the headlines. So….

When the spokeswoman was unavailable for a few questions, I left the following note:

Sgt. “You can come up and see me anytime. Bring your gun!”

The note went under the glass barrier like a sucking sound–whoosh…gone. Sometimes you know a goof immediately.

The reprimand I got was a few chuckles and the comment: “we know you.”

* * *

1970: a red-light violation, when I sailed through a major Berkeley intersection red-light on a bicycle.The cop in a squad car was behind me, but soon caught up. When ticketed, I became so vituperative that five cars had to be dispatched. I shrieked “why does it take five cop cars to ticket me for a bicycling beef?”

“Sir, you were being obstreperous,” said one of the officers. I’m impressed by big words.

That was when I realized that most Berkeley cops are smarter than me. And they got through the police academy para-military training. I couldn’t pass mandatory college ROTC. In fact, if I were to submit to police recruitment screening, I would probably be arrested.


I’ve come this close to arrest. I was threatened with arrest, last year, for persistently photographing a mental health outreach outside a Telegraph Avenue, sports bar; and could have been charged, later, for a shot of a restroom break-in at Berkeley’s famous Caffe Mediterraneum.

I got too close to a cop while I was covering a demo last year and was yanked hither and yon before being tossed aside like a rag-toy, but was not cited.

At a meet-up at a 60s Berkeley restaurant with the chief and a captain, we discussed film and photo-shooting, the chief begging me not to shoot him and turning the conversation into a satirical police grilling. The restaurant-co-owner, took me aside to ask, why I had brought the police to her place. It made her jumpy.

That jumpy feeling. Isn’t that why we are fascinated by cops?

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