Berkeley Police Review Commission discusses COVID-19 impact on Berkeley police

PRC meeting
Sam Albillo/File

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Berkeley Police Review Commission, or PRC, chair Kitty Calavita updated the commission on the details of how the Berkeley Police Department is dealing with the new situations created by COVID-19 at its regular meeting Wednesday.

“The police department has been successful in navigating the pandemic without having any personnel being tested positive for COVID-19,” Calavita said during the meeting. “About four dozen of their employees have been tested, and everybody who has been tested has tested negative.”

In late March, BPD adopted an emergency staffing schedule based off of the Santa Rosa Police Department, which had the first police officer death in the state. This plan proposed a schedule based on 12-hour shifts that would allow police officers to have time off for quarantine periods. BPD anticipates going back to normal schedule by the end of May, according to Calavita.

BPD has suspended all but “absolutely necessary” trainings, according to Calavita. She also added that it saw a steep decline in calls for service at first, but calls are starting back up again.

All city departments, including the PRC and BPD, are currently meeting with the budget office of the Berkeley City Council to submit deferral scenarios in light of the drop of revenues due to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Calavita. The city may have a shortfall of approximately $25 to $28 million for the next fiscal year, she added.

“The police department is funded primarily from the general fund, and personnel costs are 93% of the budget, so there is very little to play with there without affecting personnel,” Calavita said during the meeting. “They anticipate at least eight people likely to be leaving by the end of 2020 so they will potentially suffer some setbacks in their effort to get police staff, but it is hard to tell for sure right now.”

Nina Narahari is the lead crime and courts reporter. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @ninanarahari_dc.