City Council accepts Police Review Commission report on December 2014 protest

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Tim Hyon/Staff

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At its Tuesday meeting, Berkeley City Council accepted the Police Review Commission’s report on police response to the Black Lives Matter protest Dec. 6, 2014 and began the process of adopting the commission’s recommendations.

The report, which deemed the Dec. 6 police response “deeply troubling,” offers guidelines for improved methods of crowd control, mutual aid, use of less-than-lethal weapons and media access, among others. The council directed the city manager to work in conjunction with the PRC and Berkeley Police Department to implement recommendations that the two entities agreed upon and facilitate discussion about areas of disagreement.

“I think we don’t disagree on the values that we’re trying to reach — we just disagree on how to get there,” said BPD Chief Michael Meehan.

In particular, Meehan cited two recommendations — one that requires officers to provide an individual report within 72 hours of deploying less-lethal force and another that discourages the use of helicopters to identify crowd direction during protests — as being unfeasible and interfering with BPD’s ability to protect residents during protests.

But Andrea Prichett — a founding member of Copwatch, a nonprofit that advocates police accountability — expressed disappointment that the PRC guidelines focus on specific BPD policies without holding officers accountable.

“These recommendations are so common sense that it suggests that they should’ve been followed in the first place,” Prichett said. “It wasn’t a failure of policy that night, it was a failure of leadership and the integrity of the police officers.”

Former PRC commissioner and ASUC Senator Boomer Vicente expressed that although he supported the adoption of the recommendations, he did not feel that they would fix the problems in BPD’s current conduct. He added that demilitarization, the ban of less-than-lethal weapons, cultural sensitivity training and a more diverse police force were necessary for improvement within the organization.

Additionally, City Council passed an ordinance intended to mitigate the negative impacts of “unruly parties” that will alter operations standards for “mini-dorms” and group-living accommodations.

First introduced in March, the ordinance has undergone revisions to eliminate regulations that have created controversy in the UC Berkeley student community.

The ordinance was altered to exempt organizations deemed “capable” — such as the Interfraternity Council and the ASUC — from regulations, remove binding curfews on entertainment events and clarify that sexual assault can be used as a basis for a nuisance determination only if the survivor requests so in writing.

Students, however, still expressed concern about several aspects of the ordinance, alleging that the regulations discriminate against students, discourage the reporting of incidents and exacerbate the housing crisis in Berkeley.

On the contrary, nonstudent residents emphasized the necessity of the regulations for maintaining livable conditions in city neighborhoods.

“I’ve listened to the students talk about the dire consequences that will befall them if they have to adhere to these common-sense rules, but the absence of these regulations affect a lot more people than these students,” said Elmwood resident Kathleen Maguire during public comment. “Living next to students engaging in rowdy behavior is impossible.”

At the meeting, ASUC officials advocated five additional amendments that, if approved, would further revise language regarding sexual assault, remove limitations on the playing of music past 10 p.m. on weekdays and 1 a.m. on weekends, eliminate a provision that allows bedrooms to be removed for noncompliance, and prohibit eviction for minor violations not accounted for under Berkeley Municipal Code.

Of these amendments, City Council adopted the ASUC’s revised language regarding sexual assault, which was advised by members of End Rape on Campus, a national advocacy group for survivors of campus sexual assault.

“We’re really glad that we got (the revised language) adopted,” said Matthew Lewis, ASUC director of local affairs. “But we are still concerned by some of the regulations,” he said, adding that he hopes to work with some council members to further amend the ordinance before it goes into effect.

City Council will vote on the ordinance again Feb. 9.

Staff writer Jennifer Kang contributed to this report.

Jessica Lynn is the lead city government reporter. Contact her at [email protected].