I recognize that policing is a difficult and sometimes life-threatening service to the community, and want to be clear that a nuanced approach to dealing with issues that have made the community feel unsafe be implemented. A nuanced approach involves rewarding honorable service and supporting it through training in conflict resolution and enough basic emphasis on mental health issues that officers are aware of where and when the intervention of mental health professionals is more appropriate than a police response. By this I mean that sometimes, the mere presence of an armed police officer in uniform may cause a more defensive response in someone who is mentally disoriented, and a mental health practitioner's expertise is the right set of skills for the particular job.
This is also true of city management, who it seems does not always consider these issues to the full extent before deploying appropriate resources. We need to re-balance our budget for interventions to more accurately reflect the nature of the problems we're dealing with. The City Manager should also cease using the police as informants over zoning issues, as detailed in the following column:
I have tried repeatedly to get the City's side of this story, and have been unable to attain it in spite of repeated calls and messages. This City needs to work for its current residents and keep communities together, not make it more difficult for the vulnerable to stay.
I would also like to join Aidan Hill, Candidate for Berkeley City Council District #7, in urging the Berkeley City Council to adopt the Berkeley Police Accountability and Reform Platform supporting community oversight, disengagement from Homeland Security funding, implement action of trained mental-health first-responders as well as the promotion and protection of privacy as a human right for the Berkeley community. It is essential to emphasize the need for a fully independent Police Commission outside of the control of the City Manager in order to grow and maintain public trust, which has been damaged by incidents of racial and gender discrimination, excessive force, arbitrary detention, and the unwarranted seizure (and sometimes destruction) of personal property. While the Police force has denied that it engages in racial profiling, a recent study says otherwise. The March, 18, 2018 Police Commission report to the City Council entitled "To Achieve Fairness and Impartiality"-Report and Recommendations from the Police Commission notes that black people are more than 3.5 times more likely than white people to be stopped as pedestrians, and 36% of traffic stops were done on black drivers, who make up only 11% of the population, while 34% were white white, where white people make up 55% of the population. That means that black drivers are more than SIX TIMES more likely to be pulled over. Latinx drivers were nearly twice as likely to be pulled over. However, the PRC has proposed a solid action plan, based on national experiences, that will reduce the stark racial disparities in stops, searches, outcomes of stops, and uses of force. This plan has sat on the table for almost a year without action. The contents can be found here: https://www.cityofberkeley.info/uploadedFiles/Police_Review_Commission/Level_3_-_General/FAIR%20%20IMPARTIAL%20POLICING%20REPORT%20final.pdf.
I believe that it's important for people to demand that the PRC’s Action Plan be implemented at this time.
While I commend the County Board of Supervisors for ceasing Urban Shield exercises, these must not be permitted to come back under different rhetoric. Instead, we need to institute more and better training on mental health issues, and emphasize the use of force as a last resort. Where appropriate, mediation and mental health resources should always come first. I also recognize that training is essential. That being said, we had essential training before Urban Shield, and we will have it after. The police should not engage in threats to end service over Council's attempts to keep them out of the Urban Shield military weapons market and war games. Citizens are not enemy combatants, and such threats are not acceptable conduct for a city servant.
Moreover, we need to take a serious look at how police pensions are funded. I fully support good labor practices, and believe every employee should be making a reasonable pension. However, it has come to my attention that there are some employees in both education and the Police Department who will work excessive amounts of overtime in their last working years to boost their pensions to a level far outside of what the City can pay. This is not sustainable, and we need to negotiate a model that’s fair for both employees and the City.
Lastly, like so many other issues in the City today, this issue has become far too polarized with far too little nuance in public debate. The Police Commission proposal was reviewed by citizens on all sides, and is more than reasonable. What’s necessary is for us to discuss these issues in a civil manner, free of ad hominem attacks, and to address them as a community, FOR the community. We need for the community to feel safe and heard, and for those who are especially interested in re-establishing trust to become an active part of the process. I am aware of the shortage of trained police officers. Perhaps the place to replace outgoing officers would be best handled in the communities most affected by problems in the past, as representation builds bridges.
Higher Incidences of Crime in Berkeley
To get crime rates, especially property crime rates, down in Berkeley, we have to address the root causes. Police are the last resort. The biggest factor, which has been well documented in a variety of official studies, is poverty. Taking care of own and legislating ways to combat income inequality will go far in reducing incidences of property crime in particular. I have outlined a number of proposals in the “housing” section that would combat income inequality that stretch beyond our city’s borders through an External Affairs Office. This work is difficult, but essential, and it’s way past time to make a start.
Please contact me with your questions, comments, and concerns. These issues will long outlive any campaign, and getting the community to work together is a vital piece of the solution.