POLICE REVIEW COMMISSION Focuses on Police Transparency 1/27/2021

The Police Review Commission (PRC) meeting on January 27th mainly focused on reviewing the language of the “Controlled Equipment Ordinance” to ensure Berkeley Police Department (BPD) is transparent about its use of law enforcement tools, such as projectile launch platforms and their associated munitions, certain types of firearms and ammunition, equipment used to disperse chemical agents, chemical weapons such as “teargas,” CS gas, pepper spray, and “pepper balls, and long batons.” See list of controlled equipment here.

BPD Chief Andrew Greenwood raised concerns that it would be too time-consuming to routinely report the use of police equipment, particularly when that equipment is simply “visible.”

“It is burdensome to require a whole reporting apparatus, that requires staff time to manage and track an accurate report…I am focusing on my concern about the equipment that is routinely deployed, that just pulling the equipment out generates a reporting necessity on the officer,” Greenwood said.

Commissioner Michael Chang highlighted the importance of police accountability through transparency.

“While I understand the concerns that Chief Greenwood is raising about potential technical or tactical disincentivization, that doesn’t seem to weigh as strong as the transparency issue.”

After further discussion, the Commission agreed that officers need to be transparent and report when they deploy equipment, not when the equipment is visible. PRC former chairperson Kitty Calavita made the motion to remove the exemption clause, “for any controlled equipment not included in a use of force policy,” so the police will have to report on any and all use of equipment. The commission unanimously approved this motion.

Calavita said the Commission will now focus on reporting requirements based on the distinction between the visibility vs. the display of police equipment under the ordinance.

After considering the distinction between “displayed” and “visible,” the Commission generally agreed that eliminating “or visible” from the ordinance (refer to page 17 PRC meeting packet) would be a viable solution to the confusion around the connotations of “displayed” vs. “visible.” Commissioner George Perezvelez moved that on the report of the use of equipment specifically related to letter b, the Commission take out “or visible.” The Commission unanimously agreed.

Additional updates from the PRC meeting included the availability of three open seats for the Re-imaging Public Safety Task Force. Applications are due on February 8th, see here for more information.

Calavita brought forward the idea of reviving the Outreach Subcommittee and appointed herself and members of the public, George Lippman and Hector Malvido, to the subcommittee with the Commission’s consent.

Regarding the Police Accountability Board, PRC secretary Kathy Lee reported that community members had written to city manager Dave White to request participation in the transition process. White responded affirmatively and plans to meet with community members soon, Lee said. Applications will soon become available to the community on a dedicated web page. The Commission meeting concluded with the election of Ismail Ramsey as the new PRC Chairperson and Michael Chang as the Vice-Chairperson.

–Sophia Kerievsky

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