UCPD Chief Margo Bennett released a campuswide email detailing updates on campus policing initiatives Thursday.
The email outlines the creation of a Community Engagement Unit designed specifically as a means to implement reconciliation with victims through restorative justice.
“Strong relationships built on mutual trust between police departments and their communities are essential for maintaining public safety,” Bennett said in the email. “Around the country, however, police departments are struggling with damaged relations between law enforcement officers and the communities they serve – particularly communities of color. Berkeley is no exception.”
The main goals for the unit, as outlined by Bennett in the email, are to help foster “two-way communication” with all members of the campus and to integrate “procedural justice principles.”
The email also describes a more active approach to conducting an external audit of UCPD policies and procedures to help build a stronger relationship with campus groups and organizations.
According to Bennett, the audit will cover a variety of topics related to police engagement with the community. These topics include crisis intervention, de-escalation, interaction with homeless populations and people with disabilities, recruitment, undocumented students, the LGBTQ+ community and people of color, among other topics.
Bennett also added that the collaboration between the UCPD and faculty members in the Richard and Rhoda Goldman School of Public Policy’s The People Lab will evaluate hiring practices and recommend more effective methods in recruiting and retaining a diverse officer workforce.
ASUC Senator Milton Zerman commented on the efforts of the UCPD, expressing concern over these initiatives.
“I think these measures collectively seem to be a massive waste of time and resources. UCPD needs to be less focused on public relations and more focused on public safety, primarily protecting students from property theft and violent crimes,” Zerman said in an email.
Bennett outlined the importance of relationship and trust building that take precedence during these times. She also thanked the campus community for its support and guidance as UCPD continues to change the structure, culture and strategy of the campus police department.
“I believe it is my responsibility to strengthen the divide between my department and the campus, ensuring that our officers collaborate with and are responsive to the community; that we educate citizens on how and why we police; that we use alternatives to enforcement when possible; and that we endeavor to understand and counter the racism that has corroded goodwill between police and communities of color,” Bennett said in the email.