Berkeley officials vote to limit some police force tactics

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A highly anticipated Berkeley City Council meeting took place Tuesday that resulted in some big changes for the police department.

The Berkeley City Council voted to ban the use of rubber bullets and tear gas on non-violent crowds. They also decided to put body cameras on police officers and investigate their actions that took place on Dec. 6, 2014.

Protesters, and even some council members, called for a ban on the tear gas and rubber bullets that police used in December. Other residents called for body cameras to be placed on police officers.

The other major complaint was about the department's heavily-redacted incident report about what took place in December. Copwatch spokesperson Andrea Prichard said, "So we have this whole shield, this cloak of silence and that's where abuse festers and grows, and that's where the public confidence is eroded."

The police union was not happy about what the Berkeley City Council considered Tuesday night, but many there believe the steps were necessary to change the way cops and the community interact with each other.

Earlier on Tuesday, demonstrators marched peacefully against police brutality in Berkeley before the meeting. At least 60 people held a "Black Live Matters" sign and marched down Bancroft Way towards City Hall. Demonstrators wanted to voice their concerns about what they called excessive use of force by Berkeley police last December during a Black Live Matters protest.

"Two people tried to pick me up and they were beaten with batons as well," Thanh Bercher said.

The Berkeley Police Department's use of force and crowd control tactics during last December's protest, prompted the call for change and a march Tuesday night.

"I'm trying to assist her to get out of the path, to which point, police threw flash grenades at us -- on fire, flaming, smoking," Moni Law said.

UC Berkeley student Spencer Pritchard organized Tuesday's march and says police made the evening worse last December, not better, with their actions. "De-escalating the militarization of police is really important. I think they definitely don't need all those weaponry to enforce crowd control," he said.

That night there was widespread vandalism in downtown Berkeley. Police warned protesters to disperse and there was even some support for their actions.

"After 40 years of dealing with Berkeley police, I know we've got the best group around, boo," Berkeley Chamber of Commerce CEO Polly Armstrong said.

But the crowd was overwhelmingly in favor of curbing the police department's use of force.

The police union is strongly opposed. "I think that is extremely short-sighted," Stines said.

"The issue is how can we take a more fine grain approach to apprehend those people that are engaging in those violent and destructive acts, while not indiscriminately hitting or shooting teargas at a largely non-violent crowd," Berkeley City Council member Jesse Arreguin said.

"It's a whole different perspective being on the street, being on a police line, dealing with situations that are unfolding in seconds rather than months," Stines said.

Related Topics:
protestfergusonOPDmichael browneric garnercivil rightsblack personu.s. & worldpolicepolice brutalitypolice shootingracismbody camerasBerkeley
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