City Council renews mutual aid agreement with Northern California intelligence center

Bowen Xiao/File

Berkeley City Council approved all Berkeley Police Department mutual aid agreements with military, law enforcement and private security entities at a Tuesday meeting.

Mutual aid agreements, which detail the exchange of information and services between agencies, are renewed annually. BPD renewed previous agreements with the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office; Child Abuse Listening, Interviewing and Coordination, and Bay Area Women Against Rape, which had expired since the last council meeting to review mutual aid agreements. The council also amended an agreement with UCPD and added partnerships with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and the California Sex and Arson Registry.

Additionally, the council renewed an agreement with the Northern California Regional Intelligence Center, or NCRIC, an organization that collects and shares data among federal, state and local public safety agencies. In passing the agreement, the council stipulated that the city manager, BPD and the Police Review Commission review general order N-17, which would be put to a vote in the first quarter of 2015. N-17 is a directive governing police conduct in filing suspicious activity reports, known as SARs.

Councilmember Jesse Arreguin made the motion — which failed to pass — to postpone the vote on the renewal of the NCRIC agreement due to concerns that a SAR was submitted to NCRIC on the basis of an individual’s speech.

“I fundamentally think one solution may be to amend the general order that speech itself is not a criminal predicate,” Arreguin said at the meeting. “I think it’s important to sever out NCRIC until we can have more discussion about how we can address this issue on a policy level.”

During public comment, George Lippman, vice chair of Berkeley’s Peace and Justice Commission, discussed a February report, saying the SAR was filed based on a person’s speech. In the SAR, BPD reported to NCRIC that a man pulled over for violating a vehicle code used language consistent with an anti-government movement.

Lippman said this type of report violates a federal regulation that states that police departments, intelligence agencies and other such entities cannot collect criminal intelligence information about a person or group’s views unless the information directly relates to criminal activity and there is “reasonable suspicion” that the person or group is involved in criminal activity.

According to Lippman, this SAR also violates a 2012 Police Review Commission recommendation that SARs be limited to groups and individuals that have been charged with a crime, excluding those who have committed a “nonviolent civil-disobedience offense.”

“To come down on someone for what they believe is a dangerous step in the wrong direction,” said Councilmember Max Anderson at the meeting.

Public commenters also asked that the council not renew BPD’s agreement with the Department of Homeland Security’s Bay Area Urban Area Security Initiative, which provides training and equipment to local law enforcement agencies.

Despite the controversy, the council approved agreements in a 5-1 vote, with two abstentions. Councilmember Linda Maio was not present at the meeting.

Staff writer Robert Tooke contributed reporting.

Contact Sonja Hutson at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @SonjaHutson.

Correction(s):
A previous version of this article stated that the City Council postponed renewing an agreement with NCRIC. In fact, the City Council approved the renewal of the agreement with the provision that the city manager, Berkeley Police Department and the Police Review Commission review the general order.