No changes to be made to Berkeley police system in November election

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The proposed police commission city charter amendment will not be voted on in the November election because of Berkeley City Council’s failure to meet the deadline for “meet and confer” discussions about the language of the proposal.

The Police Review Commission sent its proposal for the charter amendment in July 2017 for the City Council to approve. According to temporary Police Review Commissioner Cooper Price, however, the City Council delayed the process three or four times between July 25, 2017 and Nov. 14, 2017.

The council members were only able to start the “meet and confer” discussions July 10, 2018, giving them less than a month until the deadline. According to Price, these “meet and confer” discussions usually require a few months.

In the charter amendment “meet and confer” memo, Berkeley city attorney Farimah Brown said, “The deadline to submit measures to the Alameda County Registrar of Voters to be placed on the ballot for the November 2018 election is Friday, August 10, 2018.”

With the time constraint, the Berkeley Police Association, city manager and city attorney were not able to come to an agreement about the text in the proposal.

Police Review Commissioner Andrea Prichett said she believed there had also been delays in the process of reviewing the charter amendment language in the City Council.

“The Police Review Commission subcommittee did a very thoughtful, extensive examination of the issues, working from a draft that was given to them by community members,” Pritchett said. “They did a great job. The City Council kicked back the proposal back to the commission and the Police Review Commission stood by what it wrote.”

Price said he believes the biggest issue right now with the police department is the lack of transparency between the police and the public.

“Currently the commissioners are unable to compel documents and testimony they need to conduct effective investigations,” Price said. “Even when the complaint is sustained against officer, the public is unable to see if the officer has actually received discipline. Basically there’s no way to find out if the commission’s voice was actually heard by the police chief.”

According to Price, the public can still petition the government to pass some of the minor changes in the proposed charter amendment as individual ordinances. However, most of the transparency-related changes would require changes to the city charter and cannot be passed until the 2020 ballot.

“We are far behind other cities in the Bay Area and the current system just isn’t transparent enough to fulfill the mandate of the Police Review Commission of providing effective police accountability, ” Price said.

Contact Anisa Kundu at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @anisa_kundu.