The police “did many things right” during the Berkeley Black Lives Matter protests but should have more manpower and better resources to address future protests, according to a report released Tuesday by the Berkeley Police Department.
The report concluded that police should deploy more officers, have more and better cameras, be more present on social media and make tactical command decisions in the field rather than from an operations facility. Police also compiled hundreds of videos, including ones highlighting property destruction and alleged violence on the part of protesters.
According to the report’s account of events, police began preparing for protests Dec. 1, five days before the first day of demonstrations. They requested mutual aid from surrounding police agencies, and by about 5 p.m. on Dec. 6, more than 150 police personnel were deployed in Berkeley.
At one point, police deployed smoke without a dispersal order, but later, police deployed tear gas after 23 dispersal orders over the course of 54 minutes, the report said. The report found, however, that the dispersal orders ought to have been more specific about what kinds of force — including tear gas — could be used on protesters. Police also did not bring an ambulance unit to the scene to treat those affected by the gas.
The report also recommended that police direct more resources toward crowd management, which includes talking with organizers and monitoring the crowd, instead of crowd control, which includes the use of force. Crowd management might entail the deployment of more motorcycle and bicycle officers.
A day after the report’s release, Berkeley Copwatch called for the resignation of BPD Chief Michael Meehan. Andrea Prichett, a Copwatch member, said the report fails to address the crux of the problems in the police department, which she described as generally out of touch with the needs of the Berkeley community.
Recommendations put forth by the report, such as making in-the-field decisions and producing an after-action report in a timely manner, are so obvious that they should have already been put in place, Prichett said.
“We have leadership right now that is out of step with the values of our community and leadership that does not seem able to provide timely information to the public, has not been able to create a command structure that can incorporate mutual-aid resources effectively,” Prichett said. “It’s almost like these recommendations are trying to act as a substitute for wise and discerning leadership.”
Police documents obtained by The Daily Californian show that police were briefed to “Get’um (the protesters) running! Stretch the crowd out so they are not a mass, but individuals.” This line, which drew concerns from a number of commissioners at the May 27 meeting of the city’s Police Review Commission, or PRC, was not mentioned in the report.
Meehan presented the report to the PRC at its Wednesday meeting, saying “regardless of challenges,” he and others share the same goal of wanting to see a different outcome.
Four officers — Lt. Dave Frankel, Sgt. Dan Montgomery, Ryan Andersen and Darrin Rafferty — made up the review team that composed the report. They reviewed hundreds of videos and interviewed police officers and commanders. They also met with experts, members of the media, the Berkeley Chamber of Commerce, the ASUC and the campus’s Black Student Union.