Exactly one year after the death of Kayla Moore, a transgender woman who died in police custody, protesters on Wednesday evening marched down Shattuck Avenue, stopping traffic with six-foot banners and chants like “stop killer cops.”
About 40 people, including Moore’s father and sister, eventually arrived at the Police Review Commission meeting in South Berkeley to express their frustrations with both Berkeley Police Department and the PRC, a nine-member civilian board that monitors police conduct and policy in the city of Berkeley.
“It feels like just yesterday my dad got the call,” said Moore’s sister, Maria Moore. “We lost someone we loved, and we can’t get her back.”
Berkeley police officers responded to a disturbance call last year on Feb. 12 and were directed to the apartment of Moore, who had a history of mental health issues. Officers restrained Moore after she became increasingly agitated and later realized that she had stopped breathing while under restraint, according to a press release issued the day after the incident.
The Alameda County coroner’s report ultimately determined “an acute combined drug intoxication” caused Moore’s death.
Berkeley Police Department completed its own internal investigation in late April, which found that there were no criminal wrongdoings in terms of police conduct. The PRC investigation, which began after BPD finished its internal investigation, was completed in January but by law cannot be disclosed to the public.
At times during Wednesday’s meeting, members of the public pounded on tables and interrupted the meeting by shouting obscenities at commissioners and police officers. Several BPD officers were stationed outside, although the meeting did not turn violent.
“The answer to finding justice for Kayla is in eliminating the PRC and creating a whole new entity,” said Carl Butler, who knew Moore personally and considers himself a friend of the family.
Commissioner Michael Sherman apologized to the public, citing a myriad of restrictions placed on the PRC that prevent members from disclosing the information gathered throughout their investigation.
“We have to be extremely careful about what we say,” Sherman told the crowd.
The PRC will soon convene a board of inquiry, which will include only eight of the nine commissioners. John Cardoza, who would have been the ninth commissioner on the panel, has recused himself because his son was one of the officers present the night of Moore’s death.
The board of inquiry will involve interviews with six BPD officers present during the incident. The PRC will then decide whether allegations made by the PRC staff members against officers are sustained, not sustained or unfounded. Commissioners can also exonerate officers.
PRC officer Katherine Lee, who is not on the commission but works as a city employee to support its functions, said results from the board of inquiry are conveyed to BPD and not made available to the public. The PRC can only submit recommendations to BPD, which then may take disciplinary action against officers or alter departmental policies. Lee was not permitted to say when the board of inquiry will begin or end.