Berkeley City Council members express concerns about Berkeley police overtime budget

Photo of Berkeley Police Squad Car
Karin Goh/File
During fiscal year 2020, Berkeley Police Department overtime expenditure exceeded its allocated overtime budget of $2.3 million by more than $5 million.

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Berkeley Police Department Chief Andrew Greenwood presented the first BPD use-of-force report and the city’s 2020 crime report during the Berkeley City Council meeting Tuesday.

Council members then suggested improvements to future presentations of use-of-force reports, while multiple members expressed concerns about BPD’s overtime budget, which was presented by fiscal manager Chuck Gunter.

“My biggest concern is the overtime report was not forthcoming until I said something to the city manager about how it was due, and it did not come with the report; it came as a PowerPoint, with no copies to us and very little analysis,” said Councilmember Kate Harrison. “I think taxpayers should be worried about that.”

BPD overtime expenditure exceeded its allocated overtime budget of $2.3 million by more than $5 million during fiscal year 2020.

During the meeting, Mayor Jesse Arreguín requested that the information in the overtime budget report be presented to the Budget and Finance Committee.

“Our budget is our budget. … Clearly, it’s something that needs to be thoughtfully looked at,” said BPD spokesperson Officer Byron White. “Those are decisions that are made by the city government, city management, city manager’s office and council. We can request things but ultimately it’s what they allocate, and, you know, we try and work within those means.”

The report defined use of force as incidents in which an officer withdrew a weapon, or a suspect had a visible injury or complained of pain resulting from force used by an officer. Because of this, Harrison called the report’s number of use-of-force incidents “artificially low.” Future reports will have a broader definition of use of force and will be compared over multiyear periods, according to the report.

Additionally, the report recorded a rise in car thefts and catalytic convertor thefts from last year, as well as a rise in fraudulent unemployment claims.

White said BPD will continue to investigate these cases. He added that fraudulent unemployment cases are difficult to resolve because they can be committed from anywhere.

“It’s been a painful year for our city. Shootings and aggravated assaults are up significantly from this time last year,” said Councilmember Rigel Robinson. “We can only speculate, but I suspect having less eyes on the street due to shelter-in-place and the social and economic fallout of the pandemic are major contributing factors.”

Contact Emma Rooholfada at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @erooholfada_dc.