City of Berkeley reaches conditional settlement in lawsuit regarding police use of force

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A tentative settlement has been reached between the city of Berkeley and journalists and demonstrators in a civil lawsuit regarding the Berkeley Police Department’s alleged use of force at a 2014 demonstration.

After the killings of unarmed Black people across the country by white police officers, a demonstration was held in Berkeley on Dec. 6, 2014. Police officers from Hayward and Berkeley allegedly employed the use of batons and specialized “nonlethal” bullets, resulting in several injuries. A settlement has been agreed upon between the lawyers, but it will not be official until it is approved by a Berkeley City Council vote.

According to James Chanin, an attorney representing the plaintiffs, one of the proposed policy changes would require Berkeley police officers to report all uses of force. Previously, during demonstrations, use of force — whether appropriate or not — did not have to be reported, Chanin said.

The settlement is not official and does still face the possibility of rejection. According to Chanin, whenever a public entity is sued and a settlement is reached, elected officials must vote to approve it.

City spokesperson Matthai Chakko said in an email that one of the items up for discussion at City Council’s Feb. 14 closed session is a discussion of this case.

In addition to policy changes, Chanin said a total of $100,000 was paid by the city of Berkeley to the plaintiffs. According to Chanin, the settlement is only with Berkeley. Hayward settled over a year ago to avoid litigation.

Chanin also said that although it is possible for City Council to reject the settlement, there is a high chance of approval.

“This lawsuit was not about money,” Chanin said. “It was about problematic policies that we thought should … change and, ultimately, the Berkeley police agreed with us as well.”

Contact Michael Lee at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @_HyunkyuL.