Police Review Commission drafts letter to City Council about homeless encampment raids

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The Police Review Commission held a special meeting Wednesday to draft a letter to the city about police raids on homeless encampments and establish subcommittee positions.

The lack of protocol for police and city officials during homeless encampment raids sparked debate during the past two meetings, especially in regards to policy for seizure of property and completion of after action reports. According to Commissioner Andrea Prichett, the commission should either put together a subcommittee or open a policy investigation to gain more information.

“(Lack of a clear protocol) creates tension between the Berkeley Police Department and the community,” said Commissioner Alison Bernstein during the meeting.

Commissioner Bulmaro Vicente said City Council should help to provide sanctuary locations for the homeless and put in place policies to clarify when personal property is allowed to be seized for evidence or has been abandoned. In a previous PRC meeting, acting BPD Chief Andrew Greenwood said the Department of Public Works collects property after police action.

In addition, Commissioner George Lippman said there should be a discussion about the police department acting in camps only during daylight hours and with a seven day warning. He said it could also offer specific alternatives to the homeless before they need to clear out the encampment.

There was also discussion about requesting a moratorium on police enforcement actions on the homeless encampments. Prichett said there should be a moratorium until the PRC has more information about what goes on during these encampment raids.

According to Bernstein, in the last PRC meeting, Greenwood said the city manager was responsible for issuing the directive to conduct enforcement. The commission then agreed to draft a letter to City Council and the city manager to create a clearer policy about police actions toward homeless encampments, including a procedure about the seizure of property.

Subcommittees have also been reassigned or dissolved depending on their current relevance for the new year.

The Fair and Impartial Policing Subcommittee will continue to provide new information about police stop force data with a collection of anecdotal stories. According to Lippman, the subcommittee’s report is on a similar schedule to be released as the Center of Policing Equity’s report for Berkeley. The Media Credentialing and Outreach Committee subcommittees also plan to convene later this month.

A new subcommittee focused on reviewing General Order W-1, or public recording of law enforcement activity, was created because Prichett said she had issues with both the wording and practice of the policy. She said the current state of the order threatens the First Amendment and should be changed.

The PRC will hold its regular Feb. 8 at 7 p.m. in the North Berkeley Senior Center.

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