Berkeley Copwatch alleges police misconduct in death of Kayla Moore

Kimberly Veklerov/Staff

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Members of the community gathered once again to demand justice for Kayla Moore, a transgender individual who died in Berkeley Police Department custody in February, by presenting a report to the city’s Police Review Commission on Wednesday night.

In its report, Berkeley Copwatch highlighted allegations of police misconduct and a dearth of mental crisis services that it said contributed to the death of Moore, who had a history of mental health issues. About 50 people, in addition to six commissioners and four Berkeley police officers, attended the meeting.

In the eight months since Moore’s death, the three-member People’s Investigation — a partner of Berkeley Copwatch — has probed and analyzed what transpired about midnight Feb. 13.

Close to tears and in a shaky voice, Moore’s sister Maria Moore said to the commission, “The (People’s Investigation) report is the most heartbreaking thing I’ve ever read.”

The investigation included interviews with witnesses and residents, reviews of BPD documentation and research on nationwide trends of similar incidents. It recommends disciplinary action be taken against officers who were present at the time of Moore’s death and policy changes be made in how police handle mental health crises.

More generally, the report sheds light on nationwide statistics. Individuals with mental illness are four times more likely to die in confrontations with police than the general public, and transgender people are three times more likely, the report said.

Annie Paradise of People’s Investigation said people of color, such as Moore, are more likely to be subjected to police violence nationwide.

“We know that Kayla was alive before the police came in and was dead after they left,” Paradise said to the audience and the commission Wednesday night.

According to the Alameda County Coroner’s report, Moore died from an “acute combined drug intoxication.”

Toxic amounts of methamphetamine and codeine were found in Moore’s blood, the report said.

Several members of the public expressed the opinion that Crisis Intervention Team training, a program that educates police officers on how to handle situations involving mental illness or developmental disabilities, is inadequate and that trained civilians should be the first point of contact. Officers in uniforms often escalate situations, according to Pam Fadem, a community health educator.

“CIT is a wonderful program,” said BPD Lt. Randy Files, who was present at the meeting but not on the night of Moore’s death. “It’s not a magic pill. It doesn’t solve all problems, but it simply brings more tools and more awareness and more resources to a problem.”

Due to the commission’s ongoing investigation into allegations of police misconduct, commissioners are unable to make any statements or express any opinions regarding the facts of Moore’s death. The commissioners are also prohibited from stating whether they will adopt People’s Investigation’s recommendations. The commission’s investigation likely will last until January, said Investigator Byron Norris.

Andrea Prichett, a member of People’s Investigation, said the next step is to seek endorsement from the city’s Homeless Commission, Peace and Justice Commission and Mental Health Commission.

Contact Kimberly Veklerov at [email protected].