UCPD Chief Margo Bennett clarified questions ASUC senators had regarding the recent controversial arrest of two Black students at Wednesday night’s regular meeting.
A UCPD officer responded to a call about a female student in possession of a taser near Sproul Plaza on March 8, Bennett said during the meeting. When the officer reached for the weapon the student became “combative,” Bennett said, and the officer used a level of force that was “necessary” in order to respond. Two students, who are Black, were arrested, cited and released by UCPD, according to campus spokesperson Roqua Montez.
The UC Berkeley Black Student Union issued a press release Monday alleging that one of the campus students was “thrown to the ground” before being arrested. Bennett said tasers are considered weapons that are “prohibited” from college campuses in response to Senator Stephen Boyle asking why the students were approached in the first place.
“I recognize that members of our community come to us with some level of trauma,” Bennett said during the meeting. “I also recognize that this may have been a triggering event for the individuals involved — I don’t know why (the student’s) reaction was as severe as it was.”
During the meeting, the senators passed a resolution calling for the suspension of UCPD Officer Gabriel Irving and Sgt. Cris Olivet who were both involved in the incident until an external investigation has been conducted. Bennett said during the meeting that if the individuals involved were to file a complaint, UCPD would open an internal investigation to determine if the level of force used was “within policy.”
According to Senator Amir Wright, the students who were cited must complete a diversion program that costs $450. The resolution also demanded that UC Berkeley either pay or waive this fee along with any fee associated with counseling services for the students involved.
During the meeting, Bennett said that she will “pledge” to find a way to pay for the students’ counseling, whether it comes from her own budget, her boss’ or that of Vice Chancellor of Equity and Inclusion Oscar Dubón’s.
“Having UCPD pay for the counseling and support services serves as a symbol of UCPD taking ownership of the harm they perpetuate on to Black students,” Senator Nick Araujo said.
Araujo said the controversy surrounding these arrests will be one of the first cases brought to the newly formed independent police advisory board that is separate from the UCPD and ASUC. Bennett said she is “hopeful and encouraged” that the advisory board can help bridge the gap between UCPD and the community it serves.
Wright, the primary sponsor of the resolution, said he wrote it with “justice in mind,” and to show the students involved that the ASUC supports them.
“I am standing here before you because I want a culture change and I need help with that,” Bennett said during the meeting. “What that means is we need to talk — we need to have more community and police interaction and understanding.”