Berkeley Police Review Commission discusses proposed police accountability plan

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Berkeley Police Review Commission met Wednesday to continue discussion on its proposed accountability plan for the Berkeley Police Department, among other items.

The Good Governance Police Accountability Plan outlines a proposed system of accountability to track BPD’s goals, which would be determined with input from the community and would aim to reduce crime and improve safety in the city. The plan will require BPD to host annual training in the hopes of achieving these goals and hire a data analyst to improve data collection and analysis.

PRC Commissioner Andrea Prichett, who proposed the plan to the commission in September, introduced a new component that requires BPD to conduct regular annual or biannual audits of its assets and expenses.

“To have annual goals identified and public would help the citizenry to support the goals of the police department,” Prichett said at the meeting. “It’s about establishing goals and creating methods and metrics for evaluating the effectiveness of the department.”

PRC Commissioner Ari Yampolsky said during the meeting that he felt that even if the plan was approved, the goals identified by BPD might not match the issues that concern PRC commissioners.

“I’m all for the idea of accountability, but when we talk about having an annual strategic plan, or an annual plan, what are we trying to see in that plan?” Yampolsky said at the meeting. “I can imagine a plan that says we want to hire 174 officers, we want to cut down our overtime by 8 percent … (things) internal to the department that don’t really get at the things, I think, that you (want).“

The commission ultimately decided to table its discussion on the plan until the next meeting.

During the meeting, PRC Chair George Lippman proposed adding language to the emergency ordinance passed by City Council in September that allows the use of pepper spray on violent protesters in a crowd setting, but not as a crowd-control tactic. The proposed changes to the policy would prohibit the use of pepper spray on any individuals within a crowd setting.

PRC Commissioner Clarence Ford expressed concern about what tools BPD would use if more restrictions on pepper spray are put in place. BPD Lt. Angela Hawk said the tactics BPD uses depend on the circumstances, but alternatives to pepper spray include “less-lethal options,” such as batons.

The proposed addition to the pepper spray policy passed 5-0, with all commissioners present in favor, except for Ford, who abstained from the vote.

In September, several PRC commissioners attended an exercise for Urban Shield, a highly contentious program that provides training for first responders for critical situations. The commission unanimously voted in support of requesting written observations from those commissioners in order to discuss PRC’s stance on Urban Shield.

“Based on new information, it seems like it would be relevant to review that position and see if that new information … could influence a new vote on (our position),” Prichett said.

Contact Cade Johnson at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @cadejohnson98.