Letter: Police Review Board delay damages trust with public

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On Feb. 3, 2012, the Senior Editorial Board of The Daily Californian published an editorial entitled “Delayed Deadline.” The editorial was a critical response to a letter sent by professor Jesse Choper, chair of the Police Review Board, who had been asked by Chancellor Birgeneau to complete, by Jan. 31, 2012, a review of UC Berkeley police response to Occupy Cal on Nov. 9, 2011. Choper wrote on Jan. 27 that the Police Review Board would not be able to complete its review by the Jan. 31 deadline but expressed a “hope” that the report would be completed “shortly after” the end of February.

That revised deadline has long since come and gone. Indeed, two lengthy evening meetings of the Police Review Board, in which a high-priced lawyer, Janine Scancarelli, hired by the UC Regents on behalf of the UCPD, presented a heavily researched, high-tech defense of police actions, did not take place until March 5 and 6. At that time, the Police Review Board had not yet interviewed members of the UC Berkeley administration about their role in the events of Nov. 9.

It is now the end of May. The Reynoso Report on the Nov. 16 pepper-spray incident at UC Davis, the Kroll Report on the same event initiated by President Yudof and even the Edley/Robinson report on universitywide police practices have long since been completed.  The latter report is scheduled for discussion at the next Academic Senate meeting June 6.

Why are we still awaiting the UC Berkeley Police Review Board’s report on Nov. 9 events?

When the Police Review Board met on Dec. 1, 2011, dozens of students attended, hoping that the board would offer a platform for the expression of outrage and concern and perhaps articulate a plan for reform and reconciliation. Refused a hearing at that meeting, many students dismissed the Police Review Board as a bureaucratic irrelevance.

The long-delayed report would seem to confirm the suspicion of many students and faculty that the announcement of a Police Review Board “investigation” of Nov. 9 was a public relations ploy, meant to temporarily mollify students, faculty and alumni who had personally experienced or been outraged at video evidence of unprovoked police aggression. Meanwhile, one student, Jasper Bernes, is still being prosecuted for his participation in Occupy Cal, even though the charges against 12 others have been dismissed. The delay — in effect the absence — of an “impartial review” of Nov. 9 supposedly undertaken by the Police Review Board may have allowed the vindictive targeting of student activists and threatens to have at least a chilling effect on the campus exercise of free speech. It will probably have a far more pernicious effect by robbing the community of its faith in the possibility of mediation and redress.

— Celeste Langan

Berkeley