The Berkeley Police Accountability Board (PAB) meeting began on October 12th with a statement of inclusivity and a reminder to the public of the expectations for in-person and virtual attendees, per the City’s rules of decorum. The public heard many important updates that included Berkeley Police Department’s (BPD’s) efforts to ensure public safety during the Israel-Hamas war; allegations and/or complaints filed against the Berkeley Bike Patrol Unit and others; and the welcoming of new members to the PAB’s Office.
The first to be announced, the Board’s newest member, was Joshua Cayetano, who was sworn in. After taking his oath and accepting congratulations in front of the Board, he said a few words. “I’m excited to learn from your(the Board’s) wisdom and the wisdom of the community.”
The second was Michelle Verger, a policy and data analyst. Verger was unable to be physically present, but via video introduced herself. She discussed her background in public policy, including specific experience working on gun violence policy in Berkeley and contributions to ballot measures. Her new position assisting the Director’s Office is independent of the Berkeley Police Department and will work closely with the PAB in reviewing and recommending policy and procedural changes for the BPD.
The next agenda Item was the Police Report delivered by current BPD Chief Jennifer Louis. In the report, Louis made the Board aware of three incidents since the Board last met. Two of these incidents were carjackings that had occurred in previous months, one of which included a violent assault on the vehicle’s owner. As of October, suspects in both cases had been apprehended and arrested. The third was an armed robbery that occurred on the 1st of October. While apprehending the suspect the police uncovered a “ghost gun,” a type of untraceable firearm.
Louis then transitioned to address the issue of escalated tensions and potential hate crimes, specific to the Israeli-Hamas conflict. She said Berkeley’s Situational Awareness Group (SAG), which analyzes data and threats in conjunction with other state and federal agencies, is actively monitoring the situation and assessing the measures necessary to ensure the safety of the community. She added that while staffing for both police and dispatch is low, new graduates are soon to join the active officers.
Wrapping up her report, Louis said she was please to share with the Board the new training program called Active Bystander-Ship for Law Enforcement (ABLE), which the department is planning on implementing in the coming year. This program developed by Georgetown Law was “designed to empower officers to build a culture of peer intervention that prevents misconduct, reduces mistakes, promotes health and wellness of our officers.” She explained that officers attended courses to learn specific subjects and how to be trainers so that they can share what they are learning with other staff members. Additional courses occur annually to reinforce training. Louis promised to keep the Board updated about the details, including the course subject matter, when they are finalized.
Board member Kitty Calavita presented next, as chair of both the Downtown Task Force and the Fair and Impartial Policing Subcommittees. Her report updated the Board on the status of the official report regarding the allegations of racial bias and unethical policing that were brought to the public’s attention after text messages were recovered from former Officer Shadaughty, who was terminated fromBPD last November. Calavita acknowledged that “policy changes are only meaningful to the extent that they’re enforced on the ground.” and that “its role is to ensure that any policy changes – are fully enforced.” She said she expects a full report to be complete and ready for presentation to the Board before the end of the year. Calavita said she expects The Fair and Impartial Policing Subcommittee’s report on racial disparities, stop data, and use of force will be concluded soon. It too will be presented to the Board and City Council.
The PAB continued to review several policy complaints, both past and present. The most concerning of which regarded BPD Sergeant David Marble. This complaint was filed by Avery Argon, representing a student coalition, who is concerned about systemic racism within the police department. Argon’s complaint was based on the alleged racist assault and act of intimidation Marble committed against Brian Lindhurst Jr.
Lindhurst has filed a lawsuit against Marble and the City of Berkeley. In the lawsuit, Marble is accused of unlawfully approaching Lindhurst in July of 2022 in Antioch while yelling racial slurs, and saying “You do not belong here,” and “I am the law.” Marble then allegedly further escalated the situation by physically assaulting Lindhurst before brandishing his gun and pointing it in Lindhurst’s face. Lindhurst claims it was not until several minutes after his friends pleaded with Marble that he lowered his weapon and abruptly left the scene. See more here.
Argon said the “the lack of steps taken by the Berkeley Police Department to respond to the incident, and to others like it, and the continued employment of Sergeant Marble, in particular, to us indicates a lack of willingness by the Berkeley Police Department to address racist and violent behavior, or to address racism within the Berkeley Police Department in general.” Argon has asked for “a full independent investigation into both incidents” be conducted promptly.
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