City Council to discuss progress on police, community relations at special meeting Tuesday

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Berkeley City Council will meet at a special City Council meeting Tuesday to examine the updates on a police and community relations report, submitted by chief of Berkeley Police Department Michael Meehan.

The report outlines progress BPD has made to incorporate suggestions made by several city commissions, council members and organizations after the December 2014 Black Lives Matter protests. The recommendations were made to bring to light any issues of racial profiling within BPD.

Councilmember Kriss Worthington explained the special agenda will follow up on issues the City Council addressed in previous meetings regarding BPD community relations and racial profiling.

During the past year, we’ve gotten new information because now (BPD is) keeping the statistics,” Worthington said.“We now have evidence that racial profiling is happening in Berkeley.”

The report includes BPD’s progress in attaining body-worn cameras, developing a racial sensitivity training program within BPD, collecting demographic data on traffic and pedestrian stops, increasing police officers’ involvement in community activities and disbanding the city Drug Task Force.

Some, however, were discouraged by the report.

Andrea Prichett, the founding member of Copwatch, a community organization that monitors BPD, echoed Worthington’s sentiments but added that she did not believe the report was actually beneficial toward solving racial profiling issues. Prichett said she wanted to see more recommendations focused on the consequences police officers who violate racial equity policies will face.

“I think it’s lip service,” Prichett said. “I think it’s not enough. I don’t think that they have really demonstrated a commitment to ending racial disparity in the city. … I’m not against the recommendations, I just don’t believe that the city is really sincere in addressing them.”

George Lippman, the chair of the city Peace and Justice Commission and a member of the city Police Review Commission, said he was disappointed the city had not considered suggestions made by Councilmember Max Anderson after the 2014 protests, which focused on police accountability and civilian oversight. The recommendations to be discussed at the meeting were proposed by Councilmember Linda Maio, which Lippman said were too mild.

Here we are a year and a half later, and all we’re doing is going back and forth like volleyball saying ‘We recommend this! We recommend that!’ and then the best of this is lost,” Lippman said. “Those were wonderful recommendations to really bring in this community and address these issues in a deep way. And that’s just missing.

Worthington explained that though the progress report was helpful in addressing the issue, he believed it was not sufficient to combat racial profiling.

I think that the report is sort of a baby step forward but not enough,” Worthington said. “It’s not enough to just say that we care about it — we actually have to have a serious plan about how to address it.”

The council will also hold its regular meeting Tuesday evening, focusing on the city’s minimum wage and revenue allocation of a city sugar-sweetened beverage tax.

Contact Chantelle Lee at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @ChantelleHLee.