Berkeley City Council to consider doxing policy, restricting release of arrestee information

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Berkeley City Council will decide on anti-doxing policy, which would limit the Berkeley Police Department’s ability to publish arrest photos on social media platforms, during its regular meeting Sept. 25.

According to the agenda item, doxing has led to threats against arrestees and their families, sometimes in the form of threatening emails and phone calls at work. The agenda item includes a proposal to draft an ordinance that would restrict BPD or other city departments from “publishing or releasing the addresses or arrest photos of people arrested under the special circumstances of civil conflicts, particularly when one party is likely to do harm to another.”

In August, BPD faced widespread backlash after releasing the names and pictures of counterprotesters arrested at a demonstration organized by “alt-right” protesters on the BPD Twitter account.

In an emailed statement, Mayor Jesse Arreguín stated that he decided to co-sponsor the new anti-doxing legislation.

“First, it’s important to differentiate between police posting mugshots on social media of people who pose a risk to public safety and not yet in custody, and those arrested in a protest for non-violent crimes,” Arreguín said. “I think Berkeley can continue its excellent work of balancing public safety while also protecting constitutional rights and our community’s values.”

A press release co-sponsored by Councilmembers Cheryl Davila and Kate Harrison states that the counterprotesters at the Aug. 5 demonstration were arrested for possession of banned weapons, such as masks, scarves and bandanas. Instead of issuing verbal warnings to dispose of banned items, the police officers arrested people on sight, according to the press release.

At the meeting this week, City Council will also discuss a proposal to provide additional funding for Berkeley Emergency Storm Shelter, or BESS, an emergency shelter for homeless individuals in Berkeley. The proposed funding of $200,000 would go to Dorothy Day House, a nonprofit organization that has been running BESS for 15 years.

In June, City Council approved the allocation of $400,000 to the city’s Expanded Emergency Shelter program efforts. The $200,000 for BESS, which comes out of these funds, will cover operation of the shelter for approximately six months, based on Dorothy Day House’s estimated monthly costs.

Dorothy Day House ran a nightly shelter at 1925 Ninth St. through Aug. 31 this year and plans to expand through the additional funding. The city is looking into possible locations for a new permanent shelter, with potential options including the West Berkeley Senior Center, the Veterans Memorial Building and Old City Hall.

“We used to have a program that only runs on winter season, on cold and rainy conditions, but what the City Council wanted was to open a shelter that is open all the time, first come, first served,” said city spokesperson Matthai Chakko. “We can have 60 people (per) night for the emergency shelter, but we are looking to see what kind of space would be best. We are looking to implement a permanent location.”

Contact Bella An at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @BellaAn_dc.