City Council preview: Police reform, commercial cannabis regulation, discrimination in rental housing

Berkeley City Council sits in the front of the room
Joshua Jordan/File

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Berkeley City Council will convene at its regular meeting this Tuesday to consider a number of proposals including short-term police reform, commercial cannabis regulation and discrimination in rental housing based on source of income.

Recently, the Berkeley Police Department released a report compiling five years of data on BPD traffic stops. The report, which was published by the Center for Policing Equity, revealed many racial disparities in BPD’s policing.

Councilmembers Kriss Worthington and Kate Harrison said the council intends to take action regarding the findings of the report.

“The bias is pervasive. Not just in the police department,” Worthington said. “The police have such a profound impact on people’s lives. It’s important to address it.”

Item 43 on the agenda, submitted by Worthington, proposes to assess the Police Review Commission’s suggestions for police accountability reform — something which Worthington said has become time sensitive in light of the recent findings.

“(The CPE) report confirms what we’ve been working on all along,” Worthington said. “It’s one additional piece of information about why we need to reform the police commission.”

Worthington added that the original item will be amended to focus on issues in the CPE report, specifically those regarding the use of force by police — that need to and can be addressed by the council immediately, according to Worthington.

Harrison voiced similar concerns, saying a short term goal was to change the use of force policy from force that causes injury, to reflect all use of force, in addition to devising a training program.

“To me, this is like an HR issue in any other department,” Harrison said. “We have to look and see if is this a training issue, a supervisory issue … (then) look at the data and identify (an) approach to work on it.”

Police Review Commissioner Andrea Prichett said she hopes the council will involve the PRC when crafting an appropriate ballot measure.

“The PRC and citizen oversight needs an overhaul in Berkeley. Right now the system does not effectively hold police accountable,” Prichett said. “Whatever ballot measure is crafted needs to reflect the … will and the needs of the people.”

Worthington has also sponsored a proposal regarding discrimination in property rentals. The proposal will address the usability of Section 8, a housing voucher program.

The item would explicitly prohibit “discrimination in the rental of housing based on source of income,” which Worthington said will make easier for low-income tenants to rent in Berkeley.

Additionally, the council will consider a proposal set forward by Mayor Jesse Arreguín regarding commercial cannabis regulation. The proposal will outline provisions for non-medical cannabis business structures and usage, as well as require the council to establish procedures for the issuance of local licenses.

“We’ve taken baby steps with (getting) medical cannabis approved,” Worthington said. “But we need to do the same thing with nurseries and with adult use … beyond medical cannabis. Those are critical.”

Contact Elena Aguirre at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @eaguirreDC.