City Council must respond to use of force during protests

CITY ISSUES: Allegations of police misconduct during December demonstrations cannot be pushed aside

The decision by Berkeley City Council to again postpone taking action in response to police use of force during the December protests was the result of poor planning and does a disservice to the many community members seeking answers.

The longer City Council waits to officially respond to the events of early December, during which hundreds of protesters took to the streets as part of the Black Lives Matter movement, the more the public will be discouraged from participating and the more our elected officials may feel the need to prioritize other, seemingly more pressing issues.

The potential reforms, which include an independent investigation into the police department and temporary cessation of certain crowd-control methods, are once again scheduled to be discussed Feb. 10 — more than two months after the protests. Should City Council table the issues for the third time, it will be losing any remaining public credibility in its ability to oversee its police department.

Councilmember Jesse Arreguin introduced the items Jan. 20, but City Council twice postponed discussion to due other lengthy items on the agenda. It is time, however, that these issues are prioritized and scheduled at the beginning of meetings — when there are more public commenters — to adequately address the myriad community concerns, ranging from allegations of police brutality to claims of militarization of a residential zone for police staging purposes.

One item tabled Tuesday — developing a plan that would implement body-worn cameras for Berkeley Police Department — has already proved controversial. Specifically, the possibility of police officers wearing cameras has drummed up significant pushback from the Berkeley Police Association, a union that represents many BPD personnel, which said in a letter to the Police Review Commission that instead of funding body-worn cameras, the city should fund tasers. The police association listed 22 concerns it had with the possibility of implementing such cameras.

Although many experts have raised questions about whether body-worn cameras will actually serve useful roles in the judicial process, the technology has the potential to help both victims and officers.

We understand BPA’s apprehension and that there are questions surrounding the circumstances of when cameras should be used. But no one can even begin to address those concerns if we don’t talk about them in the first place.

Editorials represent the collective opinion of the Senior Editorial Board as written by the opinion editor.

A previous version of this editorial stated that City Council passed a proposal to develop a plan to implement body-worn cameras for the Berkeley Police Department at its Tuesday meeting. In fact, the item was tabled to Feb. 10.

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