On Wednesday, the Berkeley Police Review Commission, or PRC, released its annual report for 2019.
Started in 1973 by a voter initiative, the PRC is one of the oldest civilian oversight agencies in the nation and the first one authorized to conduct investigations. Its annual report provides statistical data for the previous year on the number of police conduct and policy complaints received by the PRC, including general characteristics and how they were concluded.
“The purpose of the annual report … is to allow both staff and the public, most importantly, to analyze our work (and) see what has been accomplished in the past year,” said Nathan Mizell, vice chair of the PRC and a UC Berkeley student.
Mizell is one of nine commissioners on the PRC, each of whom are Berkeley residents appointed by the mayor and members of the City Council. The PRC office itself is a division of the city manager’s office.
The PRC received 17 individual complaints in 2019, which refer to cases of alleged misconduct by Berkeley Police Department officers, and two policy complaints, in which members of the public requested a review of certain BPD policies that could be improved or revised.
These numbers marked a decrease from 2015 to 2017 but an increase from 2018, during which the PRC received 13 individual complaints and no policy complaints.
Mizell cautioned, however, that these complaints likely do not reflect the entirety of potential complaints by the Berkeley community.
“There are the complaints you hear, and then there are the ones that actually get to the PRC,” Mizell said. “A big concern of mine is: How do we bridge that gap? How do we make this process more accessible to any citizen in Berkeley?”
For the complaints filed, only one finding of police misconduct was sustained on an allegation of rudeness and unprofessionalism.
In 2019, the PRC also recommended a policy to protect sex workers who are witnesses or victims of violent crime by preventing them from being arrested for certain offenses, which BPD adopted.
The PRC is currently reviewing proposed ways for BPD to approach detainees in asking for their probation or parole status as well as limitations on searching those on probation or parole.
As expressed by its mission statement, the PRC aims to provide investigation of complaints and to support community participation in oversight of BPD.
“My goal this year is to enlighten the public on this process,” Mizell said. “Their reporting is important in terms of us getting larger changes in the structure of public safety in Berkeley.”