Police Review Commission finalizes body-worn camera policy recommendations

Catherine Wallin/Staff

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The Police Review Commission, or PRC, finalized its body-worn camera policy recommendations for City Council at its Wednesday meeting after more than two years of discussion.

After the December 2014 Black Lives Matter, or BLM, protests, City Council decided that PRC would develop a plan to implement the use of dash cameras and body-worn cameras for Berkeley Police Department. PRC has approved its recommendation to implement the cameras after many months of discussion with BPD.

The council’s original plan included a pilot program with 20 cameras, but it was delayed because of lack of funding. The recent settlement regarding police use of force during the BLM protests required BPD to enforce a full implementation of the program.

The commission’s recommended version of the body-worn camera policies are separate from versions proposed by BPD and Berkeley Police Association. Council members will decide which policies will be used for the camera’s implementation at a later date.

PRC also examined the Homeless Encampment Subcommittee’s follow-up letter for City Manager Dee Williams-Ridley, which asks for her help to identify the city agencies responsible for confiscating personal property from homeless encampments.

The proposed letter is a response to recent homeless encampment disbandments organized by city officials and BPD. According to PRC Commissioner Alison Bernstein, property found at the disbandments was collected by the Department of Public Works.

The letter urges Williams-Ridley to establish a clear policy and procedure for “non-abandoned property,” where “abandoned” will be defined by the Civil Code of California.

“Somebody (needs to) take the mantle on it, lead the issue,” said PRC Commissioner Ari Yampolsky. “(I) don’t think we don’t have a standard to push forward.”

The letter also addresses Williams-Ridley’s failure to respond to PRC’s previous request for this policy. During the meeting, PRC Commissioner Terry Roberts said he hopes the letter will establish who is responsible for this issue.

Roberts also said he wants to send a letter of urgency to City Council to ensure the city manager responds to PRC’s letter.

“The letter puts responsibility where it should be,” Roberts said. “(There should be) clear instructions on how to proceed with departments and so forth.”

PRC commissioners approved the letter and will send it to the city manager as well as to the Public Works department.

The next PRC meeting will be held at North Berkeley Senior Center on May 10 at 7 p.m.

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