Berkeley to consider expanding police department’s definition of use of force

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Berkeley City Council will meet Tuesday to discuss proposed reforms to Berkeley Police Department’s use of force policy, among other items.

Proposed reform to BPD’s use of force policy would expand the department’s definition of use of force to encompass any confrontation with a civilian where physical force is used and require a report to be submitted in all such instances. Currently, such confrontations are only required to be reported when an injury occurs, a weapon is used or a citizen files a complaint, according to Councilmember Kate Harrison.

The council’s proposed reforms would also group use of force reports into levels by severity and the analysis of the use of force data into annual reports.

“Given the issues raised by Black Lives Matter and what’s happened across the country, we want to be ahead of this curve,” Harrison said. “We’ve had a pretty advanced police department … and I want to make sure we maintain that.”

Also on the council’s agenda is an item addressing disparate racial treatment by BPD after data released in the Fair and Impartial Policing report suggested Black and Latino people are stopped without being searched at more than double the rate of white people. The item proposes developing training programs and reforming policies and practices to combat such disparities.

“We’re saying, ‘Don’t wait around a year or two to think about it,’ ” said Councilmember Kriss Worthington, who worked on the item. “Let’s come up with the next steps to follow up on the Fair and Impartial Policing reports, so we can try to move closer to treating everybody equally.”

The council also plans to discuss amending the charter of the Police Review Commission, or PRC, through a ballot measure to be composed by PRC. This item addresses ongoing concerns from PRC that its role has been diminished by the council’s actions.

The Zoning Adjustments Board, or ZAB,  will continue its appeal to the council requesting an addition to a single-family home at 970 Santa Barbara Rd. amid ongoing community debate. At the Oct. 17 council meeting, the city’s principal planner, Shannon Allen, said the project would have a “nondetrimental” impact on obstructing views of the Bay Bridge and the San Francisco skyline, but neighboring residents at the meeting opposed the appeal.

According to Timothy Burroughs, acting director of the city’s planning and development department, the council may continue discussion of the appeal, redirect it back to ZAB for further consideration, revise, affirm or modify the ZAB decision.

A proposed increase by 20 feet on student housing height limitations from Dwight Way to Bancroft Way and College Avenue to Fulton Street will also be discussed. The height increase aims to address a need for more student housing, according to Harrison. She added that the campus community has always had a “crisis” of student housing on campus, but that there are even fewer opportunities now.

“The single most important item on the agenda to me is (the height limitation item),” Worthington said. “I think the city should be helping both private developers and the university. Instead, the city has policies that stand in the way.”

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

A previous version of this article misquoted Kate Harrison as saying, “Given the issues with Black Lives Matter … we want to be ahead of this curve.” In fact, Harrison said, “Given the issues raised by Black Lives Matter … we want to be ahead of this curve.”