UC Berkeley independent advisory board recommends demilitarizing UCPD, funding mental health resources

UCPD police car
Katie Lee/File
In a recent report, the UC Berkeley Independent Advisory Board on Police Accountability and Community Safety called for various reforms to UCPD, including the move of its office from its location near Sproul Plaza and Barrows Lane, as students have reported feeling unsafe due to the police presence in the area.

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The Independent Advisory Board on Police Accountability and Community Safety, or IAB, released its report on the UCPD on June 30.

The IAB — a team composed of students, staff, faculty and UCPD Chief Margo Bennett — created the report using campus and city data on policing, community listening sessions and research on the criminal justice system and alternative policing methods. The report details more than 25 recommendations that aim to create a safer campus environment and increase police accountability.

Feedback on the report can be submitted to a Google form until Aug. 7, according to a campuswide email Chancellor Carol Christ sent Tuesday.

“Since the process was data-driven and research based, the recommendations were a common sense approach to addressing the root cause of the challenges that were illuminated through the qualitative and quantitative data,” said Mia Settles-Tidwell, the UC Berkeley chief of staff and assistant vice chancellor to the Division of Equity and Inclusion, in an email.

Both UCPD and UC Berkeley said they would not comment on the report until after the community feedback period. UCPD spokesperson Sgt. Nicolas Hernandez added that UCPD looks forward to working with campus leaders and the community to develop better approaches to campus safety.

The recommendations listed in the report include demilitarizing UCPD, relocating the UCPD office, establishing a “Know Your Rights Orientation” and improving mental health training and resources on campus.

“Campus should require that mental health resources be more fully integrated into UCPD’s training and resources … so that officers are more sensitive to mental health when interacting with the public and are attuned to how their actions can negatively impact the mental health of the campus community by exacerbating issues such as trauma,” the recommendations state.

The report also states that the IAB believes that UC Berkeley should ultimately prioritize a specialized mental health response over police-based responses. UCPD leadership plans to meet with campus’s Counseling and Psychological Services to improve their partnership, according to the report.

Additionally, to commit to UC Berkeley’s core ideals, the report calls for the demilitarization of UCPD.

A subcommittee will present additional information about the demilitarization process to Christ in September, and the aim is to incorporate stakeholder and constituent feedback by summer 2021.

The IAB also recommended that UCPD’s office be moved immediately away from Sproul Plaza and Barrows Lane no later than the beginning of fall semester, as students have reported feeling unsafe due to the areas’ large police presence.

“I am optimistic that the campus will be strategic, responsive, intentional, and accountable to the community for the recommendations in the IAB report,” Settles-Tidwell said in the email. “It will be a process of prioritization, strategic planning and coordinated partnerships across the campus.”

Contact Naomi Birenbaum at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @NaomiBirenbaum1.