UCPD arrests 2 Black students, leading to backlash from Berkeley community

Brian Bi/Staff

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Update 3/19/19: This article has been updated to reflect information from a campus statement.

UCPD arrested two Black students on the UC Berkeley campus March 8, generating controversy from the campus community, including allegations of racial profiling.

UCPD responded to a report of an individual in possession of a Taser near Sather Gate on March 8, according to campus spokesperson Roqua Montez. When an officer approached the individual and reached for the device, a struggle ensued that involved the suspect, the officer and another individual who attempted to intervene. Both suspects, who are Black, were arrested, cited and released by UCPD, Montez said in an email.

He added that the two UCPD authorities involved in the incident are Officer Gabriel Irving and Sgt. Cris Olivet.

The UC Berkeley Black Student Union, or BSU, issued a press release Monday detailing the incident and alleging that the students were “forcefully searched by the police.” The BSU also alleged that one of the campus students was “thrown to the ground” before being arrested.

In the press release, the BSU alleged that the two students who were arrested — one attends UC Berkeley and the other attends the University of San Francisco, or USF — were not read their rights upon arrest, adding that the USF student in possession of the Taser was only allegedly read her rights after asking officers to do so during her one-on-one interrogation.

UCPD has not confirmed the details regarding the identities of the individuals.

Montez said in an email that the campus has received comments from the community regarding the incident and is “looking into the matter to ensure department policy was followed.”

The BSU is demanding that the charges against the two students be dropped. The organization has also called on the Black campus community and their “allies” to advocate for the charges to be dropped.

“This necessitates a larger discussion around police brutality, accountability, excessive force, and racial profiling tactics used by police globally and on this campus,” the BSU said in the press release. “An attack on one of us is an attack on all of us.”

The campus released a public statement Tuesday reaffirming the campus’ dedication to creating a “safe and welcoming” environment. According to the statement, the campus will refer the arrested students to a diversion program rather than pursuing prosecution.

UCPD Chief Margo Bennett said in the statement that authorities are conducting a “thorough and equitable investigation into what occurred,” adding that UCPD will “openly” share its findings.

“We recognize this arrest has become a racial issue for some of our community members,” said Vice Chancellor for Administration Marc Fisher in the statement. “We are committed to supporting a fair and thorough investigation, and to taking the steps necessary to maintain a relationship of trust with our community and our guests, while ensuring their safety.”

Amanda Bradford is an assistant news editor. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @amandabrad_uc.

Because of misinformation from a source, a previous version of this article misspelled UCPD Sgt. Cris Olivet’s last name.