Berkeley Police Review Commission discusses body-worn cameras, mental health response

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The Police Review Commission, or PRC, finalized its ongoing dialogue regarding body-worn cameras, addressed the retroactive release of records by the Berkeley Police Department under SB 1421 and discussed the issue of mental health crisis responses Wednesday.

PRC Commissioner Andrea Prichett clarified the language of the final body-worn camera policy as well as confirmed the prohibition of facial-recognition capabilities in the cameras. Commissioners also discussed whether the policy recommendations had been fully incorporated and agreed to approve the final draft at the next commission meeting.

“My intent is to essentially create a parking lot for other concerns about the (body-worn camera) policy,” BPD Chief Andrew Greenwood said in the meeting. “What I want to avoid is lots of revisions here and there — let’s see how it works first.”

During the meeting, PRC Officer Katherine Lee announced the recent City Council decision to endorse the release of police records under SB 1421 after a recent lawsuit that was brought by Berkeleyside and American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California. Lee added that she and Greenwood are working “diligently” to search for records that qualify for release and also to redact the necessary information.

Greenwood added that the identification and redaction process is “up and running” and expects the first set of records to be released in the coming weeks. During his report to the commission, he also stated that BPD anticipates a rolling release of records, with the most recent records being released first and older records taking longer.

“Frankly, my time has been taken up in great extent the past couple of weeks about SB 1421,” Greenwood said at the meeting. “There are lots of meetings and work being done to create the right process so when we deliver to the community, it’s done with confidence.”

Prichett also presented a list of possible questions for BPD about emergency mental health calls. According to Prichett, the increasing reliance on BPD officers as mental health responders requires an evaluation of the department’s services services.

PRC Commissioner Elisa Mikiten expressed concerns over whether or not the topic of mental health was in the scope of the commission’s expertise. Mikiten added that the effectiveness, efficiency and policy regarding mental health is in the “realm” of the city manager, the City Council and Greenwood.

“I think it could be really useful to have a presentation from the department over these issues of mental health and how they respond,” said PRC Commissioner Kitty Calavita during the meeting. “Not as an oversight function but as an educational function for us because I don’t feel like I have any good sense of what takes place.”

The PRC motioned to request a presentation from both BPD and the city Mental Health Division regarding emergency mental health responses and actions. Mikiten added that many commendations pointed to “very professional” handling of mental health crises in a “very respectful and dignified manner” by BPD officers.

Contact Clara Rodas at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @ClaraRodas10.