Police Review Commission approves recommendations to improve response to racial disparity in policing

Amanda Ramirez/Staff

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The Berkeley Police Review Commission approved the Fair and Impartial Policing Subcommittee’s report to improve oversight of racial disparity in policing at its meeting Wednesday.

The report is the product of an examination of data on police-civilian encounters that have been collected since January 2015. Multiple independent firms that analyzed the data detected disparate rates on the basis of race in stops, searches and “yield,” which is the percentage of enforcement actions stemming from police stops.

The document recommends that the Berkeley Police Department collect, maintain and analyze demographic data on all detentions and provide the information to the public. The report also suggests that BPD develop a “specific action plan” to address and solve the racial disparities illuminated by the data, among other recommendations.

PRC Commissioner Andrea Prichett said she felt that the data analysis component of the policy recommendation should be fulfilled by an external entity.

“The fundamental concept of oversight and accountability is that it’s not done by the person who’s being overseen,” Prichett said. “(The analyst) needs to be someone who is not an employee of the department, who is not having those pressures on them.”

The commission ultimately compromised to modify the recommendation. The modified recommendation suggests that BPD hire an internal data manager and that the city engage a third party to review that data and report it to the PRC semiannually.

Another modification to the report recommends that BPD address any indication of policies or orders that drive disparate behaviors, in addition to including the years of BPD experience for each officer in presented stop data, in the department’s quarterly report to PRC.

City Council passed an item at its Tuesday meeting that is similar to the recommendations in the report from PRC. The item recommends that BPD “address disparities found through yield rates, and implement policy and practice reforms.” Though the recommendations are not affiliated with each other, PRC Commissioner Terry Roberts proposed merging their recommendations with the council’s recommendations to the city manager.

“I don’t see any massive difference conceptually between that and what we’re doing,” said PRC Chair George Lippman. “I believe what we’ve done is take those (proposals) and develop them into specific recommendations.”

During BPD Chief Andrew Greenwood’s department report, Greenwood stated that 120 body-worn cameras are “plugged in and charging,” and training will take place from Nov. 28 to Dec. 1. BPD intends to use the body-worn cameras by mid-December. BPD will also be giving a presentation on the devices to PRC at its next meeting Dec. 13.

The last item the commission discussed at the meeting was a standing rule that prohibits non-Berkeley residents from sitting officially as members on the commission’s subcommittees.

PRC Commissioner George Perezvelez said the rule was implemented to prevent outsiders influencing city policies that, according to him, should be made by members of the community. PRC Commissioner Clarence Ford, however, noted that the rule excludes people who were “born and raised” in Berkeley but who can’t afford to live there anymore.

The commission failed to pass a revised motion that would allow non-Berkeley residents to sit as nonvoting members on PRC subcommittees. But PRC also failed to pass the original motion to remove the regulation altogether.

Lippman proposed reopening the revised motion for reconsideration. Some commissioners, however, disagreed with his proposal.

“That is the definition of poor parliamentary procedure,” Perezvelez said. “That is unethical.”

The commission decided to table discussion on the residence requirement until the next meeting.

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