In its first meeting of the year Wednesday, the Berkeley Police Review Commission, or PRC, discussed upcoming changes to law enforcement oversight in 2021, including its transition to the Police Accountability Board, or PAB.
The PAB will replace the PRC this year as a result of the passage of Berkeley Measure II on the November 2020 ballot. The measure will amend the city charter to establish an entity to oversee local law enforcement and investigate complaints.
The city aims to have the PAB fully seated by July 1, according to PRC officer Katherine Lee during the meeting. The application period for the board will most likely begin in February and close sometime in March, she added.
The planning group for the PAB is also working on other tasks for the upcoming transition, including putting together a budget, finding additional office space and conducting outreach.
During the public comment period, some speakers expressed a desire for increased community involvement in the PAB transition.
“Eighty-four percent of the electorate voted for this — the entire City Council voted for this,” said speaker George Lippman at the meeting about the PAB. “There’s a lot of steam behind strengthening the police oversight function, making it independent of the city manager and giving it very strong powers of access to police records.”
Later in the meeting, Berkeley Police Department Chief Andrew Greenwood updated the PRC on hiring and the impact of COVID-19 on the department.
Staffing continues to be a concern for BPD, and the department is currently in the midst of a recruitment process for officers, according to Greenwood.
“Staffing up takes a lot of time while losing staff happens very quickly,” Greenwood said at the meeting.
While BPD and Berkeley Fire Department, or BFD, currently use a one-size-fits-all system to respond to service calls, BFD Chief Dave Brannigan said at the meeting they aim to implement a prioritized dispatching system over the next few years to provide a more tailored and efficient response that sends the “right resource to the right call.”
The new system is part of the city’s Reimagining Public Safety initiative.
“When reimagining how we respond to all kinds of emergencies, specifically mental health calls, calls that are related to people experiencing homelessness that don’t necessarily fall into one bucket or the other, that can all be improved by how we start at the dispatch center,” Brannigan said at the meeting.
Implementing prioritized dispatch will require more facilities, leadership development and extra personnel, among other changes, Brannigan added. The city aims to begin project implementation in July.
During the meeting, the PRC also selected Vice Chair Nathan Mizell as a representative on the city’s Reimagining Public Safety Task Force. The meeting was adjourned in honor of Kenneth Jones, a founding member of the BART Police Citizen Review Board.