Berkeley Police Review Commission passes body-worn camera policy, establishes guidelines

Kavya Narendra Babu/Staff

Related Posts

On Wednesday, the Berkeley Police Review Commission, or PRC, met at the South Berkeley Senior Center for its bimonthly meeting to discuss issues including body-worn cameras, intercommittee and department guidelines, police officers’ use of force and the Berkeley Police Department’s new contract with Epic Recruiting.

In his update, BPD Chief Andrew Greenwood mentioned specific changes to his staff, including the promotion of several officers, namely, Sgt. Katie Smith.

He also expects future changes in his staff with the department’s new partnership with Epic Recruiting, a company that will be redesigning its website, producing video and photographic content and conducting social media and digital marketing to help the hiring department recruit more officers.

Commissioners, including George Perezvelez and George Lippman, were especially focused on the status of the use of force policy. According to Greenwood, there is still more work to be done on the policy, and he expects that it will be finalized in the next couple of months.

“What I will say is that stops have really declined very significantly over the past few years,” Greenwood said.

Greenwood tentatively agreed to a request by Perezvelez, who called for the BART police to adopt minimal use of force and regular report of force policies and for the Police Department to also regularly report to the commission on its use of force. The commission also discussed the status of the implementation of SB 1421, a bill that makes the reports of “peace officers” available for public inspection.

The commission voted on the official policy regulating the use of body-worn cameras for officers. The current policy prohibits officers from using personal devices to record. There was some debate over whether officers would be able to use personal cellphone photos and videos to communicate, as the Police Department has spoken against banning the use of personal devices in the past because of their potential to be useful in certain circumstances.

“To be honest, (the language of the policy) is geared to be a prohibition. I mean after the amount of time that has passed since it has been first implemented, (only body-worn cameras) is the best practice,” Perezvelez said. “It sets a straight-forward rule.”

After discussion, the commission decided that the language was fine as is and passed a motion to submit the body-worn camera policy to the Police Department.

The commission moved to debate the official policy and language of Lexipol, a program that works to review, revise and maintain police policies. The discussion ended with 23 policies being approved, and the remaining four policies were sent back to the Lexipol Policies Subcommittee so that it could renegotiate the specific use of language.

The commission reviewed a letter to the city attorney regarding concerns about timely access to requested police records.

Another vote ended with the decision that the chair of the committee would work with BPD and city officials to inquire about PRC participation in placing a charter amendment on the 2020 ballot.

The chief of police is expected to present a shortened version of the annual crime report to the council next month during the next meeting of the commission March 13.

Contact Katherine Finman at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @KateFinman_DC ‏.