Police Accountability Board and Director Search Update

The Berkeley Police Accountability Board (PAB) reviewed Berkeley Police recommendations for commendations, provided an update on the Director of Police Accountability search, and more at their meeting on May 11th.

Member Deborah Levine reportedly agreed to discuss the Board’s involvement in the director search with Deputy City Manager LaTanya Bellow on May 9th. She relayed the highlights of their discussion to the Board members and provided an update on the status of the hiring process. Currently, The Byers Group is still reviewing the 13 applications received by doing background checks and calling references. At present The Byers Group, which was hired by the City of Berkeley to manage the executive search to fill the PAB director position, is reportedly accessing these applications and performing their review process.

“The applications and results from their review will then be sent back to Ms. Bellow,” Levine said, “She is going to then set up interviews, so there will be a selection out of the 13 given to Bellow. That group, according to Ms. Bellow, is going to consist of about five to eight applicants, who will then be interviewed by two panels.”

One of the interview panels will consist of some PAB members. Levine said she did not receive details on how many members will be on the panel. The other panel is going to consist of community members, she said.

Interim Director Katherine Lee added that there would be at least one more panel that would consist of city staff. From those interviews, the city manager will select three applicants who will then be considered by the city council as the three finalists.

Levine voiced concern about the city manager’s criteria in evaluating candidates, asking, “How does the city manager select those three? It looked to me that it’s completely her discretion based on input from these two panels, and the content of what The Byers Group came up with from the applications and the references.”

The Byers Group’s review is planned to be completed by the week of May 23rd. After the completed review, Levine said she plans to talk to Bellow again and get more details about the panels and the selection process with Lee’s assistance.

At the request of the Berkeley city council and the Berkeley Police Department (BPD), the Board gave recommendations for commendations for officers for their actions. From a list provided by the BPD, 13 officers had been selected to be reviewed by the Board. They followed criteria from the PAB’s Standing Rules to determine if the officer should be recognized for demonstrating “exceptional valor, bravery, or heroism, superior handling of a difficult situation, an action of or performance that is above and beyond typical duties, and extraordinary compassion, empathy, or kindness.”

The PAB spent over an hour going through nominations from the list. Lee will send a letter to the city manager, city council, chief of police, and the officers being commended detailing the reasons for their recognition, and the recommendation that the commendations be placed in the personnel files.

The city council has referred the review of the equipment impact statement and use policies, the annual use report, and military equipment policy 709 to the PAB, with a deadline of June 14th for the PAB to complete their review. The remainder of the meeting focused on how the PAB should tackle this task and how they’ve handled these topics in the past.

Member Juliet Leftwich suggested creating an ad hoc committee to ensure they finish their review on time. Vice Chair Nathan Mizell and Board Member John Moore volunteered to participate on the committee, and Lee will assist as well.

–Kesenia Goldstein

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