Police Review Commission considers renewal of Northern California Regional Intelligence Center

Joshua Jordan/Staff

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The Police Review Commission discussed the upcoming Northern California Regional Intelligence Center, or NCRIC, renewal at its Wednesday meeting.

NCRIC — a government database used by Berkeley Police Department for various investigative resources — could be renewed at the March 14 City Council meeting. PRC will decide March 8 if it believes City Council should continue its agreement.

“NCRIC has the capacity to access everybody’s database, which would include ICE, FBI,” said Commissioner Alison Bernstein at the meeting. “Everything that’s real they can access — but ICE can’t access it. It all goes through (NCRIC).”

Commissioner George Lippman said the city of Berkeley should discontinue its relationship with NCRIC because of NCRIC’s association with Immigrations and Customs Enforcement. He alleged that NCRIC’s information is based on suspicious acts with a history of racial, religious, political and social class profiling.

Bernstein said she believed the city should separate from NCRIC because it would be a symbolic action, given its association with ICE under the new presidential administration — not because of a specific benefit to the city.

According to acting BPD Chief Andrew Greenwood, BPD does not share information with NCRIC, other than Suspicious Activity Reports, or SARs. He said investigators use NCRIC databases for car License Plate Recognition — an image-capturing technology that photographs license plates on highways, streets and bridge tolls. He added that NCRIC could be the only way to access this information.

NCRIC also provides training opportunities for BPD, including workshops on updated warrant access. Greenwood said discontinuing Berkeley’s agreement with NCRIC would deny BPD access to this information.

Some commissioners, however, said they were concerned that the commission did not know enough information about the database to make an informed decision.

“I don’t think (BPD knows) where the data goes and where all the data comes from. I don’t think we know,” said Commissioner Kimberly DaSilva at the meeting. “I don’t feel comfortable voting on something that I know nothing about.”

But DaSilva also said she was “horrified with what’s going on,” referring to ICE’s actions under the current administration. She added that while a symbolic action would make a strong statement, she wanted the commission to be fully informed before it made any decisions.

Commissioner George Perezvelez said SAR reports have “strict” guidelines for reviewing individuals, specifying who they are and why they are reviewed. The process to input this information into NCRIC helps restrict discrimination based on racial profiling, according to Perezvelez.

PRC asked Greenwood about BPD’s process for the recently approved full implementation of body-worn cameras after the settlement for a lawsuit regarding BPD’s alleged use of force during the December 2014 Black Lives Matter Protest. BPD has not specified a timeline for when the cameras will be distributed to its officers.

Greenwood said the cost for the first year will be about $250,000 to pay for the camera equipment, storage and setup, adding $100,000 to the previous pilot budget set aside by City Council. There will be about 200 cameras, including 20 spares — one for every police officer. The policy for body-worn cameras will be created alongside the implementation of the cameras.

At the next PRC meeting March 8, BPD and PRC will invite a representative from NCRIC and American Civil Liberties Union for a discussion about the database and the benefits and drawbacks of participating in NCRIC.

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