Police Review Commission sets meeting regulations, elects chairpersons for 2019

Amanda Ramirez/File

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The Police Review Commission, or PRC, revised its agenda-setting policies and elected chairpersons for 2019 at its regular Wednesday meeting Jan. 23.

The commission held its annual elections for PRC chair and vice chair, electing former vice chair George Perezvelez as PRC chair and commissioner Gwen Allamby as vice chair. The PRC also amended commission rules, which now limit the number of items placed on the agenda by a single commissioner to one per meeting — on the condition that the commissioner’s past items are resolved.

The ongoing dialogue about body-worn cameras, or BWCs, continued during this meeting. Several commissioners raised questions about specificities regarding when it would be appropriate for officers to inform people about the presence of a recording device and about BWC confiscation policies.

PRC Commissioner Andrea Prichett suggested that in cases of in-custody deaths, the Berkeley Police Department should record the circumstances of the death and confiscate BWC footage.

“It seems like the body camera footage should be taken first, and then a determination about what happened should be based on that footage,” Prichett said.

In further discussion on Lexipol policy, PRC Commissioner Elisa Mikiten proposed that officers verbally notify visually impaired individuals who may not be able to clearly see the camera. This motion passed unanimously.

The PRC also discussed the level and timeliness of BPD’s response to its requests, an item raised by Prichett. Mikiten mentioned in the discussion that there is an overwhelming number of requests and that the PRC itself struggles to perform its own responsibilities.

“I am looking for us to improve on both sides but to cease with the approach where we’re just doing this scattershot of requests and we’re very unfocused and pretending that their job is to serve us and not do their actual job of protecting their community,” Mikiten said.

Prichett raised two other items, which included the decision to review BPD’s crowd control policies and the delivery of mental health services. While other commissioners voted to reject the review of de-escalation policies, PRC Commissioner Sahana Matthews joined Prichett in voting to postpone the issue of mental health crisis response.

During public comment at the beginning of the meeting, three community members voiced concerns to the commission, including former City Council candidate and People’s Park activist Aidan Hill who expressed their concerns about Berkeley’s role as a sanctuary city.

“I hope that Berkeley can become a beacon of light and make sure that all people, regardless of their status, whether they are undocumented or not, have a sanctuary here,” Hill said.  “That means the police department must make sure that they’re protecting our Sixth Amendment rights to a fair trial.”

Jenny Weng is the lead crime and courts reporter. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @jennyweng1999.

A previous version of this article misspelled Andrea Prichett’s name.