Berkeley Police Review Commission passes proposal to limit warrantless searches

Aditya Katewa/Staff

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Berkeley’s Police Review Commission, or PRC, voted to approve a proposal that would limit officers’ abilities to conduct warrantless searches of individuals on probation or parole.

The proposed policy states that it would prevent officers from searching individuals on supervised release for nonviolent offenses during vehicle and pedestrian stops, as long as “there are no articulable facts that demonstrate the individual is connected in some way to criminal activity.” The policy, which was passed with a 6-0 vote with one abstention, will not affect warrantless searches of individuals on probation or parole for violent offenses.

The Probation & Parole Searches subcommittee was formed with the aim of addressing racial disparities in particular types of searches, according to Kitty Calavita, chair of the PRC. Calavita added during the meeting that the focus of the subcommittee was to assess whether or not these searches should be limited, and if so, how that could be accomplished.

“We have to think about racial parity and what the community at large feels when they’re being stopped,” Calavita said during the meeting. “All the data we do have right now is that people of color are nearly seven times more likely to be stopped, and when they’re stopped, they’re searched 10 times more often than white individuals.”

One issue with the policy is that it removes a tool that officers use to reinforce public safety, according to Andrew Greenwood, chief of the Berkeley Police Department, or BPD.

The policy was also passed with the condition that Greenwood and other members of BPD may offer comments or recommendations on the policy. According to Commissioner Gwen Allamby, the subcommittee had spent enough time deliberating on the language of the policy with BPD.

“We’ve had nothing but pushback and we’ve taken a lot of time out of our schedules,” Allamby said during the meeting.If they want to submit something later on, so be it, but we need to be able to stand and do our job, so let’s do it.”

According to an amendment to the policy, BPD has the opportunity to present any potential changes to the language when the PRC meets again March 25. The current language of the policy, according to BPD Lieutenant Dan Montgomery, has not been improved for practicality and workability.

Greenwood added that he would be open to further discussions within the police department on optimizing the language of the policy. According to Greenwood, adjusting the current proposal would be easier than rewriting or creating a completely new policy.

“I’d like the opportunity to meet with my people and come back and see what we could do,” Greenwood said during the meeting.  “I’d take it to my staff and see if we could hash it out. I’m not interested in making something entirely different.”

Aditya Katewa is a crime and courts reporter. Contact him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @adkatewa1.