Berkeley Police Association endorses Lori Droste, Rashi Kesarwani and ‘anyone but Kate Harrison’ for City Council

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Berkeley Police Association, or BPA, released endorsements Wednesday for November City Council elections, backing Lori Droste in District 8, Rashi Kesarwani in District 1 and “anyone but Kate Harrison” in District 4.

According to its endorsement announcement, BPA chose candidates that showed commitment to keeping Berkeley neighborhoods safe. BPA represents members of the Berkeley Police Department, or BPD.

“Supporting Rashi Kesarwani in District 1 and Lori Droste in District 8 — and opposing Kate Harrison in District 4 — will enable the success of our sworn officers in keeping Berkeley’s neighborhoods safe and strong,” BPA President Chris Stines said in a statement.

In its statement, BPA said it opposed Harrison because she “made no effort” to get input from law enforcement when making policies and that her actions served to “demoralize” the department. As of press time, BPA did not respond to questions regarding its endorsements.

Harrison said she did not want to speculate about the nature of her endorsement but noted that she focused on a number of police reforms this past year.

The reforms City Council looked at this year are intended to make the community safer, Harrison said. “I’m a little surprised by this note from BPA because it exaggerates what we’re trying to do.”

Harrison said she has been working to reform the Police Review Commission to provide it with more independence as a police oversight body. She has also voted to repeal Urban Shield, a controversial law enforcement training program adopted in Berkeley.

These reforms are designed to make communities safer, Harrison said. She acknowledged that policing is a “tough job” and said she hopes to work with BPA in the future to help recruit and retain officers.

“It’s unfortunate that they’ve taken such an aggressive stance and put out what I perceive as misleading information about Councilmember Harrison’s record,” Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguín said.

Arreguín has endorsed Harrison in her upcoming race. According to Arreguín, Harrison has been a vocal advocate for policies that support police officers while focusing on reform.

Kesarwani and Droste, who received BPA endorsements in their races, both expressed desire to work with BPA to improve public safety.

“I believe in the importance of working with all stakeholders in order to ensure the safety of our neighborhoods,” said Kesarwani. “The BPA is a very important stakeholder in terms of making our neighbors feel safe.”

If elected, Kesarwani hopes to take a “holistic approach” to public safety, working with BPA to institute preventative measures as well as broader policing goals.

Droste echoed these concerns, noting that public safety is a major issue for her constituents. She has worked closely with BPA in the past to address staffing concerns and has also worked on a “neighborhood by neighborhood level” to implement policies designed to make citizens safer.

“They know I’m a fair and practical person,” Droste said. “I’ve supported policies that they agree with and sometimes policies that they disagree with.”

The BPA did not endorse any candidate in the District 7 race, in which Rigel Robinson and Aidan Hill are vying for a spot on the council.

Robinson declined to comment on BPA’s endorsements.

“I don’t know why they didn’t support me or Rigel,” Hill said. “I think maybe they’re afraid of losing their job. That’s a real concern, I know.”

Hill is not opposed to a police force, they said, but thinks that the whole law enforcement system needs drastic change. They stressed racial injustice in policing and believe that police accountability is integral for society to “heal.”

“From my perspective, it’s a good thing I’m not endorsed by BPA,” Hill said.

City Council elections will take place Nov. 6.

Madeleine Gregory covers city government. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @mgregory_dc.