The Police Review Commission, or PRC, is a citywide, nine-member commission that hears complaints from individuals and creates policy recommendations to the Berkeley City Council and city manager. As such, we must consistently seek feedback and work collaboratively with the community to help create and implement progressive policies that benefit the Berkeley community. After recent protests and acts of police brutality around Berkeley, I find this feedback and collaboration with the community a priority to the work of our committee and am excited to be taking on such a position at the city level.
At our last meeting, we made a decision to be more present in the Berkeley community by holding our next meeting at the UC Berkeley campus to have an open session for community members. During this discussion, one commissioner expressed the concern that having the meeting at UC Berkeley would intimidate nonstudent residents in the area. Personally, I do not think that having the meeting at UC Berkeley will be intimidating for community members, given that the commission is here precisely to listen to the concerns of the community it represents — and what better way to do that than to bring the meeting to them?
In fact, many students from the UC Berkeley campus took part in the protests of last December and continue to have strong grievances with and convictions concerning the way the Berkeley Police Department handled the crowd. Holding the meeting on campus provides an opportunity for students to share with the commission their stories of what happened and to engage with us as we discuss these proposals and policies. A more in depth description of these policies, created by Councilmember Jesse Arreguin, can be found on the City Council agenda.
After speaking to many of my fellow students and community members, I’ve heard that the one thing they’ve consistently asked for is to have a voice within the PRC in order to seek justice for last fall’s actions. Many of the UC Berkeley students who were involved in last year’s protests want the commission to listen to their concerns and to take their narratives and opinions into consideration when making policies that will affect their lives. I believe that holding this meeting at UC Berkeley will be a positive step for the PRC to be more accessible and transparent to the community it serves. Holding the meeting on campus will make students be more aware of what the PRC is and will give them the option to speak their minds and sit in on the meetings. Students are residents of the city of Berkeley, and as an incoming commissioner, I believe they should have a direct say in what policies they deem fit to make them feel safe and protected within their community. While I do acknowledge that there are many other residents who are not university students who will be around campus on the day of the meeting, I believe that the majority of the students who were involved in the protests would like to hear or be invested in addressing and reforming the actions of BPD.
One aspect of the commission I’m dedicated to working on this upcoming year is increasing the transparency of what we actually do and engaging with community members. To me, a transparent and proactive commission doesn’t wait for city residents to voice their concerns. Rather, it means going to the residents most affected by our policies and actively asking for their feedback and/or concerns on how to craft better policies. By having a meeting at UC Berkeley, we can begin a more honest conversation with community members where proximity and accessibility to the meeting won’t be an issue.
In my opinion, there is a reason that the PRC was founded. The commission was founded so that city residents such as myself could have a way to hold the police accountable for their actions and be able to make ethical and fair policy prescriptions for law enforcement officials. The PRC, in all honesty, holds so much weight at the city level that we can use it to create sustainable, long-overdue change for the police force of the city of Berkeley. At a time when issues surrounding police brutality and the militarization of the police are at the top of national headlines and salient in many communities across the nation, Berkeley must take the lead in creating progressive, equitable change at the city level. As a city with a history in both the free speech and civil rights movements of the 20th century, we hope to continue to lead by example and work around reforming these issues. Addressing these systemic injustices at the city level has been on our agenda for more than two months now and we are long overdue for changes to our current policies!
I cannot stress enough how important it will be for our commission to hear the concerns, grievances and experiences of UC Berkeley students’ interactions with the BPD. I’m hopeful that we will have a sizeable student turnout at this upcoming meeting and would like to communicate to all community members that we are here to help, to listen and to enact sustainable, progressive change as your Police Review Commission.
We will be meeting Wednesday from 6-7 p.m. at the UC Berkeley School of Law’s Booth Auditorium.
Bulmaro Vicente is a UC Berkeley student and commissioner on Berkeley’s Police Review Commission.