No Berkeley police misconduct in 2017, says Police Review Commission report

Ariel Lung/Staff

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There were no instances of police misconduct in the Berkeley Police Department in 2017, according to the Police Review Commission, or PRC, annual report.

The report covers five years of complaint data, including the number, type and resolution of complaints. In the 2017 calendar year, there were 22 complaints about specific officers and three complaints about BPD policies. This number, according to past data, is fairly common.

The report said the number of individual complaints proceeding a Board of Inquiry hearing in 2017 was, on average, consistent with the number of cases closed without an additional hearing between 2013 to 2015. The number of cases closed without an additional hearing was lower in 2016 because of mediation, the report said.

The report highlighted 81,173 service calls to BPD in 2017. Such calls include phone calls requesting service from BPD — calls which result in an officer visitation for required service and direct contact to BPD from someone in need of help.

Twenty-two percent of the complaints were cited under the allegation category of improper arrest, search, seizure or stop/detention. The second largest category was excessive force, accounting for 20 percent of the number of complaints, and the lowest category of complaint was harassment.

Under 10 categories, the report did not find any cases of police misconduct.

“The two patterns you find on campus are both typical of complaints against municipal police,” said UC Berkeley School of Law professor Franklin Zimring. “The citizen complaints are very rarely upheld, and violations of a technical nature (usually from supervisors) are much more frequently sustained.”

As of now, PRC does not have access to the past records of officers. BPD is the only jurisdiction in California different from that of the state standard. In Berkeley, an investigation is limited to 120 days, rather than the statewide 365 days.

City Councilmember Kate Harrison commented upon what she said were issues PRC is facing. Currently, the PRC operates on an evidentiary standard known as preponderance of evidence. This standard is based on the more convincing evidence and its probable truth or accuracy, not on the amount of evidence.

According to Harrison, this devolves the standard of evidence into a “he-said-she-said pattern.”

“The general feeling of council attendees is that people are reluctant to go to the PRC because of authoritative issues,” Harrison said.

According to Harrison, a way of bettering the chances for those coming before the PRC is to fix underlying structural issues.

According to PRC Commissioner Andrea Prichett, the PRC often discourages complainants from engaging in the process of filing complaints because the process requires a written and oral statement from the complainant but not from the officer in question.

“This makes the system automatically unfair,” Prichett said. “The report restates what has been stated so often, which is that the city doesn’t have a welcoming process for the community. There’s no incentive for people to use it other than to document complaints.”

Contact Alexa VanHooser at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @dailycalexa.

Correction(s):
A previous version of this article misspelled Andrea Prichett’s name.