Police Review Commission subcommittee criticizes Berkeley police response to Urban Shield protest

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Francesca Ledesma/File

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On June 20, after the Berkeley City Council voted to continue participation in Urban Shield, Berkeley police arrested two individuals, and at least one community member was struck on the head with a baton.

In the wake of this confrontation, the June 20, 2017 Subcommittee met nine times to investigate Berkeley Police Department’s response to the event. The Berkeley Police Review Commission, or PRC, met Wednesday to discuss the findings of its June 20, 2017 Subcommittee meetings and begin discussion on the restructuring of PRC.

After reviewing various information including dispatch reports, videos, discussions with officers from BPD and emails from the public, the subcommittee determined that BPD had the “right and responsibility to act.” The subcommittee’s report noted, however, that the police department could have taken “alternative actionsto mitigate or circumvent the confrontations that occurred.

Present at the meeting were PRC chair Sahana Matthews, PRC officer Katherine Lee and commissioners Andrea Prichett, Clarence Ford, Michael Sherman and Terry Roberts.

“We knew there was a lot of things sort of boiling out there,” Roberts said. “We felt there could have been more advanced planning to head off trouble early on.”

Two individuals condemned BPD’s handling of the occurrence at the June 20 City Council meeting during public comment. One individual called it an “overreaction to a peaceful protest,” while another said there was an “absolute lack of decorum among the activists.”

The June 20, 2017 Subcommittee suggested in its report that BPD should have prepared by contacting the anti-Urban Shield group prior to the council meeting to reduce potential for conflict.

Matthews also discussed the restructuring of PRC, as recommended by a city council motion. The motion recommended that PRC consider a charter amendment or ballot measure to restructure the commission and strengthen its authority as a commission.

“It is a really big job to write something like that. It’s to write a rework,” commissioner Andrea Prichett said. “For us to go into a whole cycle of activity to write a good charter amendment, I think, would take all of our energy for the year.”

Prichett also mentioned the formation of a subcommittee to draft such changes to PRC or ballot measures. The item was ultimately tabled until next week.

During his regular report to the PRC, BPD chief Andrew Greenwood called staffing a “major crisis.” He cited retirement, a lack of “community support” and long commutes to work as general reasons for officers’ departure from BPD. Greenwood also stated that BPD is looking into a program to promote hiring, such as potentially offering signing bonuses for new officers.

At the meeting, the commission also voted to renew PRC’s Homeless Encampment Subcommittee.

Cade Johnson is the lead schools and communities reporter. Contact him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @cadejohnson98.