The Berkeley Police Association, or BPA, announced its endorsement of candidates for the Nov. 8 municipal election in a press release last week.
The association, which represents officers of the Berkeley Police Department, endorses candidates every election cycle. This year, the BPA endorsed Laurie Capitelli for mayor, and Susan Wengraf, Darryl Moore and Stephen Murphy for City Council.
“I’m very honored to carry the endorsement of the Berkeley Police Association,” Wengraf said. “I think it speaks to years of collaborative work to make Berkeley a safer place for everyone.”
The association sent a questionnaire to all the election candidates with questions about the candidate and their public policy, according to BPA president Chris Stines and BPA consultant Sean Barry. It included questions such as, “Why did you choose to seek public office?” and, “On rare occasions, BPD has had to borrow an armored vehicle from a neighboring department to prevent bullets from killing or severely injuring Berkeley residents in the course of chasing a suspect. Do you support the use of armored vehicles in these circumstances?”
“Generally speaking, we’re looking for candidates that understand the importance of public safety and candidates who are supportive of that,” Stines said. “Capitelli has got a very long … record that has consistently been in support of both fire and police, trying to make sure that we have the resources we need to protect the community.”
The BPA board interviewed the candidates before making a decision on whom to endorse. Most of the questions asked in the interview branched off of the ones in the questionnaire, with Barry adding that “it’s a pretty typical process.”
Nanci Armstrong-Temple, who is running for the District 2 council member seat, objected to the endorsement process, refusing Barry’s invitation to the endorsement interview in an email. In her email, she wrote she was “not seeking endorsement from any organization whose goal is to continue the current national and citywide trends of police violence and lack of accountability to the public.”
Armstrong-Temple said that although at first she thought the questionnaire would be a great way to start important discussions regarding police violence, she felt that it was simply a tool for the BPA to convince candidates to increase police presence in Berkeley.
“They want to continue the militarization of the police,” Armstrong-Temple said. “They want better equipment to do that, and they want me as a next City Council member to sign onto that agenda, and I told them I’m not willing to do that. So that’s what the letter was in response to.”
Barry said Armstrong-Temple was entitled to her opinion, but Police Review Commission chair George Perezvelez stressed that the BPA is essentially a police union, so candidates criticizing BPA’s decision to endorse candidates would be hypocritical and offensive. He also expressed support for all four candidates the BPA endorsed.
“The (BPA) is not only an association, but it’s a union — a union of employees,” Perezvelez said. “These members of the (BPA), as union members, have the right to endorse political organizations or candidates.”