Berkeley Police Review Commission discusses GPS tracking data policies

Sunny Shen/Staff

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The Berkeley Police Review Commission, or PRC, met Wednesday night to say goodbye to two commissioners, discuss the use of GPS tracking data and vote on three subcommittee general orders.

Wednesday’s meeting was the last regular meeting for Commissioners Terry Roberts and Sahana Matthews. Matthews served on the commission for two years and as its chair for one. Current chair George Perezvelez described her leaving as a “loss to our city” and thanked her for her presence and perspective as a student. Roberts, whom Perezvelez said would be missed for his “critical and impartial” evaluations, will serve at one final subcommittee meeting on probation and parole questioning before leaving after four years on the PRC.

“I just want to thank everyone on the commission, from the community, and from the department,” Matthews said at the meeting. “I can’t even begin to tell you how much your support and your positive energy has affected me and really changed me as a person and a commissioner.”

One of the first items on the agenda was public comment, during which Tracy Rosenberg from Oakland Privacy, a citizen’s coalition focused on the use of surveillance, shared her concerns over the GPS Tracking Devices Use Policy and Acquisition Report, also known as policy 1301 under the Surveillance Technology Use & Community Safety Ordinance. Rosenberg described GPS data as “intrusive and sensitive information” and said she was interested in how the ordinance dealt with GPS tracking of those on parole or probation and its guidelines regarding third-party data sharing.

Berkeley Police Department Chief Andrew Greenwood spoke on the issue of policy 1301. He said it is important that parolees’ GPS data is accessible to BPD officers, and said such data was used to arrest a suspect on suspicion of sexual battery earlier in the week. Before the commission chose to bring policy 1301 to review at its next meeting on Sept. 4, Greenwood addressed a concern that had been raised multiple times during the meeting.

“All of our policies in regards to immigration violations does not allow us to work with ICE in any way, including providing GPS information,” Greenwood said during the meeting.

During the meeting, Greenwood also extended an invitation to PRC to participate in the city of Berkeley’s National Night Out event, an opportunity for communities to engage with local public safety departments. Perezvelez said he was excited for the event and urged other PRC members to partake as well: “We have to engage with each other to create a community which we love.”

The PRC then moved to review three subcommittee Lexipol policies. The three general orders up for discussion — Hate Crimes, Information Technology Use and Private Person’s Arrests — all passed unanimously and swiftly.

The meeting adjourned after another public comment session, during which Charles Clarke lent his support to the PRC.

“It’s important that people have confidence in the police, and that’s what I really look to the PRC to do,” Clarke said during the meeting.

Emily Hom is an assistant news editor. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @hom_emily.