City Council to discuss nonvoting student representative, 2016 crime report

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At its Tuesday meeting, Berkeley City Council will consider temporarily placing a nonvoting campus student on the council and will discuss the 2016 city crime report as well as city agreements with outside agencies, such as the Northern California Regional Intelligence Center.

If passed, the nonvoting UC Berkeley student representative would sit on the council from March 28 to May 12 as part of a pilot program. The representative would sit alongside council members and could participate in council discussion at special and regular meetings, but not during closed sessions.

The council would decide whether to permanently establish the student position at the end of the pilot period.

“I think it’s important for us to provide as many voices as possible for younger voters,” said Councilmember Sophie Hahn. “(The item is) a way of really acknowledging the extent that students are an integral part of the community and a way of getting their participation and their insights.”

The representative position would be filled by André Luu, the ASUC external affairs vice president, who first suggested the item. Luu said he began formulating the project last summer, and he has worked closely with Mayor Jesse Arreguín and others to put the item into action.

Luu also put together an earlier item that created the City/UC/Student Relations Committee, which is intended to promote collaboration between the city and the campus student government.

“As students, we make up roughly 30 percent of the entire population of Berkeley, yet we don’t have a single student representing us on City Council,” Luu said. “That’s a huge concern, especially when so many citywide issues affect students.”

A recently released 2016 city crime report will also be presented to the council during a special meeting. The report uncovered a 17.9 percent increase in violent crime from 2015 a category including instances of rape, robbery and aggravated assault. Overall crime, however, dropped by 7 percent.

Berkeley Police Department spokesperson Andrew Frankel said in an email that BPD will not comment on the report until after it has been presented to City Council.

Additionally, Andrew Greenwood, BPD’s interim chief of police, will present an information report on the city’s agreements with other law enforcement agencies, police departments or private security organizations.

As a part of this item, the council will consider whether to renew an agreement with NCRIC, a government database that collects license plate numbers and suspicious action reports.

The Police Review Commission previously recommended that City Council renew the agreement with NCRIC but monitor BPD’s use of the database. The Peace and Justice Commission has recommended that the city opt out of the agreement, alleging it promotes profiling based on ideology and ethnicity.

Alison Bernstein, chair of the PRC, acknowledged that it is important for the police department to have the necessary tools to solve crimes, yet there were privacy concerns regarding their use of NCRIC. She said she thought the commissioners all shared the same concerns, but some of her colleagues felt the recommendation wasn’t enough.

The PRC commissioners were split on their opinions about the recommendation at their meeting last week, though it ultimately passed in a five-to-three vote.

PRC commissioner Andrea Prichett said she was interested in how often detectives or investigators used the NCRIC data and how many times the data has aided in a conviction.

“We can’t really intelligently weigh the costs and benefits of our participation in NCRIC until we have that information,” Prichett said.

Edward Booth covers city government. Contact him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @Edward_E_Booth.