City commission closes March 3 crowd control complaint

The Berkeley Police Review Commission voted at a meeting Wednesday night to close a policy complaint raised earlier this year regarding police use of force and crowd control tactics at the protests on the UC Berkeley campus in March.

The complaint — brought March 17 by Copwatch member Andrea Prichett — raised issue with the Berkeley Police Department’s possession of less lethal munitions, like pepper spray, at the protest and asked the commission to reevaluate the department’s mutual aid agreement between BPD and UCPD.

The decision made at the meeting was aligned with the conclusion reached by the commission’s investigation into the department’s crowd control tactics initiated in April.

The recommendation encourages the closing of the complaint, “because there is no evidence that BPD violated its Operational Agreement with UCPD or its crowd control policies.”

Prichett contested the recommendation at the meeting and expressed concern that the mutual aid agreement could mean that BPD must defer to orders from UCPD that violate its crowd control policies, complaining specifically about the way BPD officers forced protesters and onlookers away from the Wheeler Hall steps during the ledge sit in March.

According to the recommendation, BPD acted within the constraints of its policies when dealing with that instance of crowd control. Berkeley police Sgt. Ed Spiller said at the meeting that BPD officers would not break their own department’s policies if UCPD told them to.

Prichett also raised issue with the fact that the department requesting mutual aid — in this case, UCPD — during an emergency situation determines whether the situation is an emergency and said that this could result in BPD officers being deployed to situations unnecessarily.

Commissioner George Perezvelez emphasized the importance of mutual aid agreements for BPD as well as the departments it provides assistance for.

Though the vote did close the complaint, the commission discussed the possibility of forming subcommittees to evaluate current BPD policies concerning its use of force and crowd control tactics.

The meeting also marked the first meeting with UC Berkeley Junior Marco Amaral, who was recently appointed to the commission by City Councilmember Kriss Worthington.

“It’s really critical that there be student voices and generation voices (on the commission),” Worthington said.

Amaral, who has been involved in several student protests, was one of 17 protesters arrested on suspicion of trespassing after refusing to leave Wheeler Hall during the March 2 protest.

Sarah Burns is the lead crime reporter.