Police Review Commission elects new chair, discusses plans for body-worn cameras

Catherine Wallin/Staff

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The Police Review Commission convened Wednesday evening to elect a new chair and discuss body-worn camera policies and recent City Council decisions.

The PRC unanimously voted Commissioner George Lippman to be its chair for the remainder of the year. Lippman will succeed Alison Bernstein. Lippman said he welcomes the opportunity to serve and hopes to transcend differences in policy and build on the current relationship between the commission and the Berkeley Police Department.

“My hope is to assist the community in bringing their concerns and their wisdom into the police review process, and to focus on the issues of greatest concern in the community,” Lippman said. “Those would include issues of racial disparity, of the mutual aid pact and the department’s relationship with national security agencies, the control of surveillance and the implementation of body cameras — among a number of other issues of general concern.”

Several city residents opened the meeting by expressing concerns over alleged racial profiling and police aggression after last week’s City Council special meeting. Citizens thanked the commission for their letter urging City Council to take immediate action regarding the release of the Center for Policing Equity, or CPE, data, which are reports detailing BPD stop data from 2015 onwards.

Interim Chair Kimberly DaSilva discussed City Council’s recent decision to move forward with PRC’s suggestion and ask the department to release the CPE reports, counting this as a success for the commission.

In his report, BPD Police Chief Andrew Greenwood discussed the department’s plans for body-worn cameras. Greenwood said a five-year contract with Axon for 200 cameras would be signed the next day. He said implementation is around six months away and added that he hopes it could be sooner.

“My sense is that everybody in the police department would like to be issued body-worn cameras and wants to use them and wear them,” Greenwood said. “We think that it will be quite useful whenever there’s any questions of misconduct, and it’ll be quite useful in gathering evidence in investigations.”

Upon suggestion from Commissioner Terry Roberts, Greenwood agreed that at a future meeting the department would demonstrate to the commission how the cameras function, how data is recorded and where that footage is then sent.

The PRC Fair and Impartial Policing Subcommittee updated the commission on their work drafting body-worn camera and surveillance policies, while the Outreach Subcommittee reviewed their recent tabling at Berkeley’s Juneteenth Festival.

At the end of the meeting, cake was served to celebrate newly-elected Chair Lippman’s birthday.

The Police Review Commission convenes every two weeks. The PRC next regular meeting is set to take place on Wednesday, July 12.

Contact Christine Giuliano at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @christinegiul.