Doesn’t it make sense that police should be held accountable to the same or a higher standard as any other city department? Because of the unique powers invested in police, some could argue that they should be held to an even higher standard. Like any city department, business or organization, the police department should be required to comply with some basic accounting and management practices.
With proper systems and data collection, the Police Review Commission, the city of Berkeley and the community can actually begin to evaluate the effectiveness of the department and the way that we spend the approximately $63 million that is dedicated each year to police services. This is why I have introduced the “Good Governance Police Accountability Plan”.
The plan is very simple, and it basically goes like this: we require that annual goals be established by the community. We collect data while police interact with the community in service of these goals, and then we use the data to evaluate how close the police came to achieving the goals.
Berkeley Police Department currently lacks a data manager within the department. It is essential that an independent data analyst be hired by the city to create methods for gathering the necessary information and monitoring implementation. This would be an enormous help in evaluating the effectiveness of the department’s efforts.
Over the summer, Chief Andrew Greenwood communicated to the Police Review Commission that he does not make it a practice to collaborate with the public on the establishment of annual goals. He explained that there are no performance standards linked to the creation of the department’s annual budget or the training/ or hiring of officers. He also indicated that there has never been an audit of the Berkeley Police Department itself, although there have been smaller audits (evidence room, overtime, etc.)
The people of Berkeley should establish what the focus of the department should be and control its funding and functioning. The chief could develop staffing priorities and budgeting strategies that are based on the identified priorities and goals. That is how well-managed organizations work.
Our community may be more united in our priorities than it seems. Although some people in the BPD support the increased militarization of the force to respond to highly militarized threats, many want a simpler and more local agenda. Many in the community would prefer that the department spends more of its resources on conducting investigations, reducing crime, promoting safety, preventing sexual assaults, developing humane strategies for dealing with populations of mentally ill and marginalized people and dedicating time to training for disaster and emergency response. We need a public process by which to establish the direction of the department and the priorities of the community.
We need to ensure that the $67 million annually that this community spends on police services actually makes some impact on community safety. But how will we know? We need to put into place clearly defined measures by which we can evaluate the effectiveness of the police department. We cannot simply take the department’s infallibility on faith.
Recently, the chief revealed that BPD had never had a thorough audit. It is not rude or disrespectful to ask that BPD be audited. Getting a baseline audit is a practice of good governance and very common in well run organizations. The monitoring of systems prevents mismanagement and supports effective monitoring before something goes wrong.
Rather than mere displays of force, we need to employ tactics and policies that actually support the health and safety of our community. We need to become more data-driven and able to justify the staffing levels and funding directed towards the police department. We need to assert control over police functioning and combine the best parts of community control with de-militarization, de-escalation and local accountability and control. The people of Berkeley have a right to know that their police department is being run efficiently and that its resources are being effectively deployed.
Andrea Prichett is a member of the Police Review Commission. All opinions are hers and do not reflect those of the commission.