City Police Review Commission holds meeting on campus, approves new General Order for police

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The Police Review Commission, an independent civilian oversight committee appointed by City Council, hosted its Wednesday meeting at the campus’s Booth Auditorium in hopes of creating more accessibility for the community, especially for students.

In addition to its regular meeting, a one-hour work session was added to allow students and community members a chance to give suggestions to the Berkeley Police Department, as well as voice their grievances and concerns — especially in regard to the police response to December protests.

“When students congregate in masses, suddenly the mentality changes and the students and police officers aren’t people,” said Shayda Azamian, a UC Berkeley freshman, at the meeting. “There’s a huge ‘us versus them’ mentality and that needs to change.”

ASUC Senator Madison Gordon gave suggestions to the commission on how police should interact with protesters, such as not wearing “substantive” riot gear, as well as not creating a formation or barricade in front of BPD headquarters during confrontations in order to not appear antagonistic toward protesters.

In addition to the handful of students who spoke at the meeting, several citizens called for a greater amount of transparency between BPD and city residents, especially in regards to documents and police video footage of the December protests.

“(Records) should be more civilian and accessible,” said Moni Law, a Berkeley resident, at the meeting. “We need transparency and restorative justice.”

Additionally, the commission approved a new BPD General Order — proposed by Commissioner George Perezvelez — regarding the treatment of and interactions with transgender persons. The commission also created a subcommittee that will work with the department to create the order.

The commission also approved a list of rules — drafted by PRC officer Katherine Lee — for handling policy complaints and reviews.

Several commissioners said there has been “confusion” among the commission, City Council and the city manager in regard to the PRC’s subpoena power for documents.

They also discussed generally requests for information from Berkeley police. Due to the high volume of document requests to BPD, the department will require more time to respond to requests, according to city spokesperson Matthai Chakko.

“BPD will provide all the requested information that it is allowed produce consistent with law and policy,” Chakko said in an email.

Perezvelez called the city’s lack of participation in commission activities “problematic,” adding that more transparency is needed in order to accomplish and expedite the commission’s decisions.

BPD has yet to respond to the commission’s request for documents from the commission’s Feb. 4 meeting, according to Commissioner Bulmaro Vicente.

“We have a long way to go as a commission, as a City Council, and some people who are in and out of uniform,” said Commissioner Michael Sherman at the meeting. “Hopefully we’ll see a ray of sunshine come out of this.”

Adrienne Shih is the lead city reporter. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @adrienneshih.