Berkeley City Council to vote on Police Review Commission charter amendments

Doug Smith/Staff

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On Tuesday, Berkeley City Council will vote on charter amendments to the Police Review Commission, or PRC, that would restructure the commission to conduct investigations and form policies.

Item 32a, submitted and revised by the PRC, recommends that the newly formed police oversight body be given more authority. Item 32b, submitted and amended by Mayor Jesse Arreguín and District 4 Councilmember Kate Harrison, recommends that the council review the revised idea of a police oversight body that combines the PRC’s proposal with Arreguín’s and Harrison’s ideas.

According to PRC Commissioner Andrea Prichett, the PRC revised its amendment draft — which was created by members of the PRC and the community — extensively before submitting it to the council, at which point Arreguín and Harrison made some significant changes. Then, at a meeting, PRC members reviewed the revisions and commented that they preferred their own changes, resulting in the two documents that will be voted on July 10.

“The PRC did a good job, but there were some elements that didn’t really fit our system of government,” Arreguín said. “I’m building on the work of the PRC and creating a process that fits within our system of government that creates a more fair and impartial way to file complaints against officer misconduct.”

According to Councilmember Kriss Worthington, the council must either vote to initiate one of the proposals or take pieces of each proposal to form a blended variant.

The proposals for amendments were created during about a dozen meetings over the span of a few weeks, according to PRC Commissioner Ari Yampolsky.

“The charter amendment was developed by a subcommittee of the PRC that had substantial community input in the form of community members who attended the subcommittee’s meetings,” Yampolsky said.

Worthington said Berkeley’s current accountability system is outdated and has not kept up with the changes in law. In order to keep up with contemporary society and other cities around the Bay Area, the PRC charter must be amended, he said.

Yampolsky stated that the purpose of the amendments is to modernize the charter that was created and voted for by Berkeley residents in 1973 and to maintain the standards of the original system.

According to Worthington, in order for this charter amendment to make it onto the November ballot, it must be voted on within the month. Arreguín said City Council has until Aug. 10 to put the amendment on the ballot.

“I think it will improve the relationships with the community and make it more likely that community members will actively be willing to work more closely with the police,” Worthington said. “I think having a clear accountability increases the community’s trust and respect.”

Contact Kelly Yang at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @KellyYangMSJ.