Police Review Commission discusses body-worn cameras

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Leslie Yang/File

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The Berkeley Police Review Commission met Wednesday to discuss a policy recommendation on body-worn cameras for the Berkeley Police Department.

The recommendation for body-worn cameras broadly addresses situations when officers must have the cameras turned on and situations when officers may use their own discretion. It was discovered over the course of the discussion that BPD only budgeted cameras for uniformed officers, not detectives and plainclothes officers.

“I have problems with the police having discretion,” said Commissioner Christina Murphy. “When I lived a different life, I had problems with being mistreated, and my clients do now, so I would just like some assurance that these cameras will be on.”

The PRC held a special meeting beforehand to discuss its recommendations to City Council regarding a proposed referendum on reforming the PRC. City Council will also be discussing the issue at its meeting next week.

The Wednesday meeting started an hour late and ran for two hours — covering one of five items on the agenda. James Chanin, a civil rights attorney in Alameda County and one of the founding members of the PRC, has expressed concern about the perceived ineffectiveness of the PRC.

“Berkeley still doesn’t have cameras,” Chanin said, referring to Oakland’s successful implementation of body-worn cameras. “They pass it around and around and it’s still not getting done.”

Chanin said he still sees a place for the PRC’s policy recommendations, but he added that the complaint process is an “exercise in futility.”

Chanin pointed to the fact that the Boards of Inquiry, in which PRC members conduct investigation into complaints and in-custody deaths, are no longer public and “not a level playing field.” In these Board of Inquiry hearings, complainants can be questioned by the officer’s attorney, but members cannot question the officer or hear their testimony, according to Chanin.

“I would not refer anyone to the PRC for a complaint,” Chanin said.

Contact Anderson Lanham at [email protected].