Fortunately for Burbank Police Sgt. William Berry, he had just
completed a statewide training class for public information officers
in San Luis Obispo.
The following week, officers Gregory Campbell and Matthew Pavelka
were gunned down in a Ramada Inn parking lot, and Berry -- the
department’s media liaison -- suddenly became its public face.
Despite a lack of experience in dealing with the media on a large
scale, Berry, a 30-year department veteran named public information
officer in September, was up for the challenge. In the hours after
the Nov. 15 shooting, after Pavelka died and suspect David A. Garcia
escaped, Berry stood stoically in front of reporters, urging Burbank
residents to stay indoors while police hunted for Pavelka’s alleged
“We all had our jobs to do,” Berry said. “In that first week, I
was lucky if I got two hours of sleep [a night], and that was more
than some of the others.”
The media calls persisted, from the time Pavelka and Gregory were
shot until Garcia was captured. For every phone call Berry returned
he got six fresh calls.
“My answering machine maxed out,” he said.
During his career with the Burbank Police Department, Berry has
worked the detective and patrol bureaus and served as watch
commander. He serves on several boards as a department liaison, and
coordinates the department’s emergency response programs. He also
happens to be the department historian.
But serving as spokesman was a whole new experience for the
52-year-old Berry, who was initially attracted to the post because he
hoped it would give him a better overview of the department.
“I’m learning on the job, basically,” he said. “We’re all learning
on the job. This [shooting] is hopefully a rare instance for us.”
While Berry was thrust into the public spotlight during the nearly
two-week period, he acknowledged that his role took a back seat to
the job investigators had to do.
But for Berry, Pavelka’s death -- the first fatal shooting death
in the department’s 82-year history -- took its toll because he and
fellow officers were grieving at the same time they were working.
Burbank Police Deputy Chief Larry Koch said Berry, like other
public information officers, was selected for the job because of his
ability to convey department information at times of great or sudden
interest, despite his lack of experience.
“That’s kind of the way police work is,” Koch said. “There are
things that happen. I wish it was different. But there are those
events in time, when no matter what level of training you have, you
have to step up to the plate and do your job.”
Berry, Koch added, successfully worked through the challenge of
conveying information without showing his grief.
“That was difficult,” he said.
To get him through the difficult periods, Berry said he relied on
his experience and even his dry humor. That served him well when he
needed to be at his best.
“In the early tapes, I can see I was stiff, but I gained more
confidence toward the end,” he said. “The tricky part is learning to
anticipate what the questions are going to be in order to give a