Berkeley City Council unanimously passes major reforms in hopes of more equitable policing

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ByKate Larsen KGO logo
Wednesday, February 24, 2021
Berkeley City Council unanimously passes major policing reforms
The city of Berkeley has passed groundbreaking police reforms. It potentially allows officers to be fired for racist social media posts and eliminates stops for low-level offenses, like not wearing a seatbelt or having expired license tags.

BERKELEY, Calif. (KGO) -- Berkeley City Council held a special meeting Tuesday night to vote on sweeping police reforms.

Convened before police killed George Floyd last May, Berkeley's Fair and Impartial Policing Workgroup, shared data on racial disparities, when it comes to who Berkeley Police stop in cars, on bikes, and on foot.

"In Berkeley, for the years 2015 to 2018, black drivers were about eight times more likely to be stopped than White drivers," said Police Review Commissioner, Kitty Calavita, while showing a bar graph that demonstrated the imbalance.

Showing another uneven bar graph, Calavita said, "here we see the disparity in search rates with Black drivers being searched relative to Whites at a rate of almost four to one and LatinX drivers more than twice as often."

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Spelled out in a 202 page report, Berkeley's Mayor and City Council voted unanimously to pass the reform package, which:

  • eliminates stops for low-level offenses, like not wearing a seatbelt or having expired license tags
  • requires written consent for searches
  • prevents police from asking someone for their parole or probation status
  • potentially allows police officers to be fired for racist social media posts
  • creates an Early Intervention System to retrain biased officers

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During the meeting, Berkeley Cop Watch shared a compilation of body cam footage from recent incidents they say demonstrate racial bias within the department. Public comment was supportive of the reforms and largely critical of Berkeley PD.

"On my block multiple levels of harassment and abuse by police," said Ayanna Davis with Health Black Families. "It is critical these officers be held accountable."

"What were facing right now is an opportunity to change culture of a police department," said Hector Malvido, with Latinos Unidos of Berkeley.

"Berkeley deserves better, and Black people deserve justice," said Berkeley resident, Moni Law.

But in a statement, Berkeley's police union says the they were not consulted about the new policies, which they call a "one-way street."

"At stake is the safety of Berkeley citizens and its police officers as the proposed reforms will turn officers into filing clerks, gutting their much-needed time on the streets within our community," said Sgt. Darren Kacelek, President of the Berkeley Police Association.

"The Council needs to ensure officers have the necessary tools to protect ourselves and our community. These reforms will do just the opposite."

A separate task force is working to cut the Berkeley Police Department's budget in half.

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