Police policies affect people of color disproportionately

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The NAACP, the oldest civil rights organization in the United States, is committed to realizing real freedom, and social and economic justice for all. We will continue to speak up in the face of unequal implementation of policies that negatively affect people of color and other marginalized citizens. Therefore we will continue to work toward the eradication of racial profiling. The loss of trust in fair policing in Berkeley has led to some people of color not wanting to visit the city — hence not benefiting from the rapidly expanding local economy.

 The NAACP has always operated using the principles of emotional intelligence and civility. Accordingly, I will continue to encourage all people, police and citizen alike, to think about what’s in their and their communities’ best interest before they act. Citizens must always question unjust acts and challenge bigotry. But I will encourage people of color to respond in a measured and tactical manner that reduces the possibility of them being harmed which will further erode the already fractious relationship that far too many citizens of color have with Berkeley Police Department.

 The NAACP enthusiastically supports of General Order B-4, Berkeley’s new Fair and Impartial Policing Policy, drafted in large part under directions of BPD Captain Cynthia Harris. General Order B-4 unanimously passed by Berkeley’s Police Review Commission on March 26. On June 17, 2014, it was unanimously passed by the Berkeley City Council. These undivided votes by both the the commission and the City Council are evidence of a need for change in the way the Berkeley police interacts members of the African-American community.

 There have been three recent incidents in which African-American youths were apprehended by BPD for allegedly jaywalking. Two of the incidents happened at or near Berkeley High School. All of the victims were young African-American boys, one being a 15-year-old freshman honor student. In each instance, individuals other than blacks were also concurrently jaywalking. But only the African-American youths were confronted by BPD. In each instance, these black youths were put in handcuffs but later released. On another occasion, three UC Berkeley black students, two men and a woman were stopped by Berkeley police for jaywalking near campus at Dana Street and Dwight Way. The complaints from the UC Berkeley students stated that BPD profiled, confronted and subsequently arrested two of them for walking while black.

 Let’s be clear: Jaywalking is not a crime, just a simple infraction which does not warrant anyone being placed in handcuffs nor arrested. Most Berkeley residents will never experience a temporary loss of freedom —being handcuffed — or an indictment of their dignity. Based on testimonies by citizens that attended the NAACP’s two town hall meeting and police forum, handcuffing and racial profiling of citizens is routine for far too many people of color and other marginalized groups in Berkeley. These actions are of significant concern and by no means will we accept them as the norm.

 I am, however, very optimistic that changes in police policies with respect to upcoming police training. The reason for my optimism stems from my attendance and participation, along with a member of the American Civil Liberties Union and the police commission, during in the November 2012 Fair and Impartial Policing Training hosted by BPD Chief Michael Meehan. The overall success of this policy will entirely depend on the BPD utilizing a single policy for all citizens.

 It is important that all citizens understand that implicit biases are extensive and most times affect people’s decisions and their behavior toward people of other races. More importantly, implicit biases by police officers, who are licensed to carry and use lethal weapons are even more worrisome, and so they must be held to a higher standard. The violation of anyone’s civil or human rights by the police or civilians has no place in our society.

 Meehan informed local community stakeholders that he had scheduled officers to participate in a fair and impartial policing “train-the trainer” program with his final goal of training all offices in BPD. I believe the chief made a very wise decision in training his officers. Consequently, I think it is also of foremost importance that the Berkeley NAACP be involved in the public dissemination of information outlining the principles of General Order B-4.

 On the behalf of the NAACP, I want to thank Councilmember Jesse Arreguin for bringing General Order B-4 to the City Council and public June 17. Further, I would like to thank our collaborative partners, the ACLU and the Peace and Justice Commission, for working tirelessly and diligently with our Berkeley branch to turn General Order B-4 from a resolution into a law. The NAACP and our collaborative partners will monitor the implementation and progress of this policy. We will, however, remain vigilant and engaged.

Mansour Id-Deen is the president of the Berkeley branch of the NAACP.

Mansour Id-Deen is the president of the Berkeley branch of the NAACP