Members of the ASUC Senate brought up concerns regarding police presence on campus at the senate’s regular Wednesday meeting.
UCPD Chief Margo Bennett attended the meeting to shed light on her department’s efforts to provide security at events that unfolded in what was originally intended to be “Free Speech Week” at UC Berkeley. According to Bennett, UCPD was successful at minimizing confrontation and damage during this time. She added, however, that the events were disruptive and that associated security costs were high.
Bennett also discussed the trend of an increase in street crimes during this time of the year. She advised being vigilant about personal belongings and following UCPD assault prevention tips.
“Darkness is coming earlier,” Bennett said at the meeting, referring to the recent end of daylight savings time.
UCPD is making several efforts to address a potential increase in crime, according to Bennett. The department plans to increase the number of community service officers, or student police officers, to 60 by the end of December as well as increase their pay to $16 per hour and allow continued employment for at least three months after graduation. Currently, the UCPD staff totals 60 full-time officers and 65 civilian personnel in addition to the community service officers. Other UCPD-led efforts include reducing wait times and increasing daytime police presence.
Bennett said at the meeting that she also wants to increase community engagement by conducting events such as townhalls.
“Any ideas you have for outreach, please bring them forward. I am happy to fund it, but I want a partner,” Bennett said at the meeting.
Senators Juniperangelica Cordova-Goff and Taehan Lee expressed concerns at the meeting about students feeling threatened by UCPD officers. Controversy surrounding Urban Shield, a first responders training program that some members of the community allege is militarized, also came up during the meeting. Senators wanted to know how Bennett plans on making her officers more approachable. Bennett said she prioritizes students being respected, adding that she would want to hear about any instances of students feeling otherwise.
“Urban Shield training is invaluable and can save lives. I would be remiss as a leader of my department to not give that training to my police officers,” Bennett said at the meeting.
Senator Vicente Román asked Bennett for updates on UC Berkeley’s investigation into UCPD Officer Sean Aranas, who was captured on video in September taking money out of a hot dog vendor’s wallet after citing the vendor for vending without a permit. Bennett did not comment on the specifics of the investigation, but she added that it could take up to two to three months to complete. The UC Berkeley Police Review Board will then assess the investigation and provide UCPD with feedback.
The ASUC Senate also heard from UC Berkeley student and rape survivor Aarefah Mosavi, who attended the meeting to speak on the case of Cassandra Hall, sister of UC Berkeley senior Bitsy Hall. About 10 years ago, Hall was abducted, brutally gang raped and tortured. DNA was matched in 2015 and the case was strong against her three alleged rapists, according to Mosavi, but the trial ended in a hung jury “despite (the) victim’s assertion that the attack was in no way consensual.”
“We wouldn’t blame victims of any other violent crimes, so why do it to victims of sexual assault?” Mosavi said at the meeting.
The ASUC Senate will convene for its last regular meeting Nov. 29. The senate will not meet the week of Thanksgiving.