City Council discusses police agreements, 2016 crime report

Francesca Ledsema/File

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Berkeley City Council convened Tuesday night to discuss a collection of police-related mutual aid agreements and the 2016 city crime report.

Although the council passed several agreements between Berkeley Police Department and other police agencies, the decision to continue collaboration with the Northern California Regional Intelligence Center, or NCRIC, and the Bay Area Urban Areas Security Initiative, or UASI, was pushed to the April 25 meeting. Both agreements faced harsh criticism from community members, who alleged that the programs promoted Islamophobia and police militarization.

NCRIC is a government database that collects license plate numbers and suspicious action reports, and UASI is a U.S. Department of Homeland Security program that BPD uses for grants and training programs, according to BPD Acting Chief Andrew Greenwood.

At the meeting, Greenwood argued for the continuation of the agreements, citing an increased ability to put together contingency plans and combat applied tourniquet training as examples of the benefits of the Urban Shield training program.

“(The tourniquets) are worth their weight in gold,” Greenwood said at the meeting. “Some (people) have made it because we have these combat applied tourniquets.”

But Mohamed Shehk — the national media and communications director of the organization Critical Resistance, which opposes the expansion of the prison industrial complex — criticized the increased surveillance of programs such as UASI.

“A lot of these kind of programs … have targeted specifically Arab and Muslim communities,” Shehk said at the meeting. “We don’t want trainings that are militarized.”

Andrea Prichett, a founding member of Berkeley Copwatch and a Police Review commissioner, talked about the increasing trajectory of police secrecy and militarization during the meeting. She said she wanted BPD to provide statistics about how successful the agreements were in order to fully understand why the agreements were necessary.

Councilmembers Lori Droste, Ben Bartlett, Sophie Hahn and Cheryl Davila all agreed that the council would like to have more information about NCRIC and UASI to make an informed decision. Droste also suggested that BPD organize a presentation on why the department needs NCRIC and UASI.

“What I’m interested in is alternatives,” Hahn said at the meeting. “How can we get you the training and the experience that is relevant to police work in Berkeley … and avoid entangling ourselves with federal agencies and federal programs?”

Several representatives from BPD also presented the findings of the 2016 crime report to City Council during the special meeting. The report revealed that Berkeley has experienced a 7 percent decrease in overall crime, but a 17.9 percent increase in the city’s instances of violent crime.

After BPD representatives presented the report, Bartlett asked Greenwood about the overlap of mental health with violent crime. Greenwood said that although he didn’t know the full breakdown, he estimated that 60 percent of aggravated assaults were mental health related.

During the meeting, Greenwood emphasized the importance of police transparency with the public.

“Speaking of community engagement, we know it’s important to engage and inform our community,” Greenwood said at the meeting. “We now use Nixle. … Starting today, we’re live on Twitter.”

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