Police policy reforms among items to be discussed at Tuesday City Council meeting

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Measures to temporarily ban police use of less-than-lethal crowd-control methods, implement a program to place body cameras on officers and approve an investigation of police action during protests early last month are among the items up for approval by City Council at its Tuesday meeting.

The council will reconsider several measures held over from its last meeting, including a proposal from Councilmember Jesse Arreguin directing the Police Review Commission to formally investigate the Dec. 6 use of tear gas on protesters.

Other agenda items up for approval include a temporary revision of the Berkeley Police Department’s general orders to prohibit the use of tear gas, baton strikes and other means of crowd dispersal; an official endorsement of the demands of Ferguson protesters; and a policy to instate the use of police in-vehicle and body cameras.

Councilmember Kriss Worthington said he felt that the city’s lack of response to the events of last month — namely, local law enforcement’s response to protests sparked by cases of police killings of unarmed black men — was tragic.

But since those first protests, he added, “there’s been so many people talking about it, I think now there’s a critical mass that will force the city to take these things seriously.”

Issues such as race and equality have long been a priority of the Berkeley chapter of the NAACP, according to branch president Mansour Id-Deen. He said that the organization supports the adoption of police body cameras and the demilitarization of police and that he will attend Tuesday’s meeting in person.

“The mayor and council pretty much have gotten the message,” Id-Deen said. “Some of them were surprised and embarrassed by actions of the police department themselves, so I don’t think it’ll be a big debate on the part of council.”

George Lippman, vice chair of the Berkeley Peace and Justice Commission, said he felt that the police-related items were a “good beginning” but only the first round of city legislation to come in the wake of the protests.

“Even if the police activities from Dec. 6 are reined in and demonstrators are treated appropriately, that still doesn’t resolve the original issue of the relative value of black life,” he said.

According to BPD spokesperson Officer Jennifer Coats, the department usually sends a representative to City Council meetings. She said BPD cannot comment on items that haven’t received a final vote.

Still, although police-related topics make up more than half of the items on the meeting’s action calendar, some agenda items have nothing to do with police: One proposed measure, for example, would ban automated technology-buy-back machines in Berkeley. Another involves improvements to the intersection of San Pablo Avenue and Cedar Street.

Tuesday’s meeting will be preceded by a special session to discuss a possible continuation of the goBerkeley parking program.

G. Haley Massara is a news editor. Contact them at [email protected] and follow them on Twitter @BylineGraph.

Correction(s):
A previous version of this article stated that a ban on nonlethal crowd-control methods was up for approval by the City Council on Tuesday. In fact, it was a ban on less-than-lethal crowd-control methods.