Berkeley City Council voted at its Tuesday meeting to amend several city police protocols, as well as launch an investigation into last December’s protests.
Councilmember Jesse Arreguin drafted three agenda items in response to controversy over police action during the demonstrations over grand jury decisions not to indict police officers involved in the killings of unarmed black men, including firing tear gas and rubber bullets.
Originally slated to appear before council Jan. 20, the items were tabled twice before they were addressed Tuesday night.
The first item refers the city manager and the Police Review Commission, a civilian police oversight committee, to return to the City Council with revisions to Berkeley Police Department’s general orders regarding use of force, mutual aid and crowd control.
Additionally, the City Council approved a moratorium on the use of tear gas and less-lethal weapons, such as batons and rubber bullets, in response to nonviolent crowds until the police commission and the city manager’s office conclude their investigation of the protests.
Arreguin said the intent of the ban is to prevent violent police action against nonviolent protesters, focusing on “identifying and apprehending” individuals who are violating city laws.
The second item initiated an independent investigation into the December protests. The city manager will have 60 days to select an investigator, giving preference to former police chiefs or law enforcement officials with investigative experience. Also passed was the City Council’s support of the National Demands for Ferguson Action, a list drafted by protesters that advocates demilitarizing local law enforcement, among other recommendations.
Finally, the City Council approved an item referring the city manager to develop a plan for implementing police body-worn cameras, which was introduced by councilmembers Arreguin, Darryl Moore and Linda Maio. For Arreguin, the items passed because of a “strong community response,” and he added that it was a “collective victory.”
“Last night was one of the proudest I’ve had in my six years of office,” Arreguin said. “Now we just have to keep the pressure going forward for a permanent ban in these tactics.”
Various community members, including UC Berkeley students, spoke at Tuesday’s meeting during public comment, providing both personal testimony and concerns about police action experienced at the protests.
“I am here because because what happens in our city resonates around the world,” said Thanh Bercher, a UC Berkeley sophomore who passed out milk and water at the protests, at the meeting.
ASUC Senator Madison Gordon read an account from her friend, Nisa Dang, a UC Berkeley junior, who is “still taking time” to tend to injuries she sustained at the protests, while Allie Loux, a UC Berkeley senior who is currently on medical leave for a concussion she sustained during the protests, said her injuries were not comparable to what some of her friends “suffer daily from militarized police.”
In addition, a rally organized by UC Berkeley and Berkeley City College black student unions saw approximately 100 community members and students march from the intersection of Center and Oxford streets to the steps outside the City Council’s chambers at Old City Hall where various demonstrators spoke.
“We’re here to remind people that black lives matter every day of the week,” said Kadijah Means, a Berkeley High School senior and president of its Black Student Union.
Councilmembers Arreguin and Max Anderson, who stood in solidarity with protesters, spoke to the crowd. Arreguin maintained his position that nonviolent protests should be an option available for people to voice their concerns, and Anderson cited the protesters’ “steadfastness” as the reason why Arreguin’s items were able to appear on the agenda.
“We are looking for real change,” said George Lippman, vice chair of the Berkeley Peace and Justice Commission. “We want to prevent the repeat of attacks.”
The council compiled a list of action items at a January work session, with suggestions such as encouraging Berkeley police officers to engage in more community activities, among other recommendations. The items will be addressed at the council’s next meeting Feb. 24.
Staff writer Alexander Barreira contributed to this report.