Berkeley Police Review Commission meets to discuss use-of-force policy

Police Officer
Brianna Luna/File

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The Berkeley Police Review Commission, or PRC, discussed the city of Berkeley’s use-of-force policy at a special meeting Monday.

The PRC spent most of the meeting revising Berkeley Police Department’s use-of-force policy draft, which it hopes to submit to Berkeley City Council in July. Proposed revisions to the policy draft required a majority of commissioners’ approval to be implemented.

A subcommittee had been meeting prior to Monday’s PRC meeting to discuss critical items and prepare the initial policy draft.

The meeting began with a public comment period, during which multiple Berkeley residents weighed in on items that the committee planned to address. Berkeley resident Charles Clarke told the committee that he approved of the evolving policy draft.

“When BPD uses force, they are using it in my name,” Clarke said during the meeting. “I want them to account for it and use it as sparingly as possible, and so I’m glad that action is being taken here.”

Kitt Saginor, another resident, criticized the current use-of-force policy’s allowances for officers to use lethal force.

Saginor asked the commission to address the issue of BPD using lethal force based on its beliefs about a situation in the moment, rather than objective facts.

“What an officer believes can be problematic,” Saginor said. “We’ve all grown up in a sea of bias where a Black man or a Black boy is seen as threatening.”

According to BPD Chief Andrew Greenwood, a police department’s use-of-force policy is a reflection of how it intends to keep its community safe.

Greenwood highlighted BPD’s “recent successes” in de-escalation techniques, referencing its establishment of the first state-approved de-escalation training program in California and the Minneapolis Police Department’s request for BPD to help with training.

Greenwood said he believes that an updated use-of-force policy should work in concert with situational de-escalation to avoid using unnecessary force in the first place.

Throughout the meeting, commissioners debated which regulations to include in the policy draft. One contentious issue was the requirement that officers report unauthorized use of force that they had personally witnessed or heard about.

Commissioner Ismail Ramsey argued that the draft needed a clause that reiterated an officer’s “duty to report” in order to “break the code of silence” surrounding police misconduct. After a lengthy discussion, the group voted unanimously to keep the clause requiring officers to report misconduct.

At the end of the meeting, the group voted to endorse its progress on the revised version of the policy draft.

The PRC will reconvene July 8 to discuss more items, including the use of nonlethal force and the definition of “serious bodily injury.”

Contact Mattias Hoz at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @hozmattias.