Berkeley City Council adopted the majority of the policies regarding the city’s set of mutual aid agreements with outside law enforcement agencies at its meeting Tuesday night.
The council approved the 2012 Mutual Aid Memoranda of Understanding — which allows Berkeley Police Department to assist outside police agencies in emergencies when their resources are insufficient — after adjusting aspects that about a dozen members of the public and some council members raised concerns about in the original proposal.
The council reviewed policies concerning suspicious activity reports to the Northern California Regional Intelligence Center, agreements concerning sharing criminal intelligence and accepting police equipment from federal agencies.
Controversy over the city’s mutual aid policy was sparked after officers from Berkeley Police Department and UCPD, along with at least 10 other agencies, were called to assist Oakland Police Department during Occupy Oakland demonstrations last October and November. After deliberations at numerous council meetings, a special meeting regarding the memoranda of understanding was called in June, during which the council asked for new policies to be completed by September.
During Tuesday night’s discussion, a policy that would require the police department to seek approval for grant applications from the Urban Area Security Initiative for equipment costing more than $50,000 was revised to make oversight by the council available for equipment at any price.
According to Berkeley Police Department Chief Michael Meehan, 11 pieces of training equipment have been bought by the department through the use of federal grant money since 2010. The cost of this equipment ranged from around $4,000 to almost $500,000. Under the new policy, council members can request information about grants for any item before the department moves forward with acquisition.
Concerns over federal money for police equipment arose over the summer among local residents and members of the UC Berkeley campus community when a plan to use a federal grant to purchase an armored vehicle for the Berkeley, Albany and UC Berkeley police departments was abandoned following public outcry.
Many members of the public said they would like to see more oversight on these purchases.
“I would like there to be oversight for any of those grants,” said Disaster and Fire Safety Commissioner Phoebe Sorgen at the meeting. “It’s easy enough.”
One part of the plan that was not decided upon Tuesday involved the city’s position on Immigration and Customs Enforcement civil detainers.
A letter from the American Civil Liberties Union, sent to the council Tuesday afternoon, contributed to the council withholding an opinion on policies regarding immigration detainers until its October meeting, after which suggestions sent from the ACLU could be implemented in the policy.
The ACLU’s letter contained a “lot of great suggestions,” said Mayor Tom Bates at the meeting. Many of the suggestions outlined in the letter — which focused on suspicious activity reporting and immigration detainer enforcement— would be adopted by the police department’s policy, City Manager Christine Daniel said.
George Lippman, chair of the Peace and Justice Commission in Berkeley, said Tuesday’s decision shows the community has been making “concrete legal proposals and prevailing.”
Approving the policies will allow discussion to continue, including how UCPD and Berkeley Police Department can better create similar policies, said Councilmember Jesse Arreguin after the meeting.
Read the full text of the council agenda item below: