Police Review Commission meets to discuss homeless encampment raids, police training program

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The Police Review Commission met Wednesday to discuss Berkeley Police Department’s recent homeless encampment raids and the services provided by the Department of Homeland Security for the Urban Areas Security Initiative, or UASI.

Several community members at the meeting expressed their concerns regarding the homeless encampment disbandments during public comment. At the meeting, PRC commissioners asked acting Chief Andrew Greenwood how BPD assessed its response to homeless encampments. The PRC also debated establishing a moratorium or a more “robust” report on UASI funding and training.

Commissioner Andrea Prichett said she did not understand why BPD failed to disclose more after-action reports related to the homeless encampment disbandments. Commissioner Alison Bernstein also said she wanted to understand how BPD distinguishes between camps that are visual demonstrations and those that aren’t.

“How does the public become more aware whether BPD believe their action was effective or not?” Prichett said. “How does one hold the police accountable?”

In light of the December 2014 Black Lives Matter protests, the PRC recommended BPD create after-action reports within 72 hours after an incident. This policy is listed as C-64 Section 72 in BPD’s General Orders and Regulations for crowd control and management.

Greenwood said BPD evaluates itself through “experience” and does not consider encampment raids to be categorized as crowd control and management. He added, however, that he is willing to have a presentation on BPD’s actions for each of the raids.

The commission also discussed how City Council should vote on UASI, with which the council has upheld its agreement since 2007. UASI supports Urban Shield, a training program for BPD officers, but the PRC is unsure what is taught in the program.

At the meeting, Commissioner George Lippman requested a one-year moratorium on UASI until a full review of the program is presented to the PRC. He emphasized the importance of open communication with the PRC, especially considering that UASI is now under President Donald Trump’s executive branch.

“We have a racist president,” Lippman said. “If people can’t say that out loud, we are in trouble.”

Commissioner George Perezvelez, however, said he disagreed with the moratorium because he would rather provide more training to help officers respond to potential threats. Greenwood also said a consequence of the moratorium would be that BPD would experience a lack of funding because UASI also provides it  with funding for new technology.

The commission agreed to request a report from BPD on the Urban Shield program that would address the total and distribution of costs and what exactly the program entails.

During the meeting, Greenwood also announced that the report from the Center of Policing Equity, a national research think tank working with BPD, is expected to be released in mid-March.

The PRC has a special meeting Feb. 1, during which it will finish its Wednesday agenda.

Gibson Chu is the lead crime and courts reporter. Contact him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @thegibsonchu.