At its meeting Wednesday, the Berkeley Police Review Commission, or PRC, revised requirements for controlled equipment reports and elected outreach committee members and commission chairs.
The PRC removed a clause that exempted controlled equipment reporting if the equipment was also included in a use of force report. Additionally, the PRC elected a commission chair and vice chair for 2021, along with two community members for the outreach committee.
“It is very important that the communities that are most impacted by police presence are well represented,” said former PRC chair Kitty Calavita at the meeting. “It is certainly the case that every part of the Berkeley community has to be represented, and I assume that we will do our due diligence to accomplish that.”
Calavita appointed community members George Lippman and Héctor Malvido to the outreach committee after hearing a brief statement from both of them.
Subcommittee meetings are open to the public and participation from Berkeley community members is greatly encouraged, added PRC Secretary Katherine Lee.
Also regarding transparency, the PRC debated the distinction between “visible” and “displayed” controlled equipment. In the Police Equipment and Community Safety Ordinance, controlled equipment that is “publicly displayed or visible” must be reported.
Commissioner Ismail Ramsey said a controlled weapon being “displayed or visible” encompassses both armored vehicles driving around in a neighborhood and a can of pepper spray lying on someone’s utility belt. He added that an armored vehicle is crucial to report but a pepper spray can is not.
On the other hand, Berkeley Police Department Chief Andrew Greenwood said in practice, a controlled weapon being displayed or visible is “terms without a distinction.”
Commissioners Calavita and George Perezvelez debated the technical definition of the two terms, even turning to the Oxford Dictionary. They concluded that “visible” is a passive term, whereas “displayed” is active. Calavita suggested eliminating the word “visible,” which would allow for armored vehicles to be reported and not cans of pepper spray.
“Anytime any equipment on this list is being deployed, in the sense of going through the scene or responding to something with a law enforcement purpose, that should be covered with this policy,” said former PRC vice chair Nathan Mizell at the meeting. “The policy is really doing what it’s designed to do, and that is going to require more reporting by the department.”
The PRC ultimately voted unanimously to delete the words “or visible” from the ordinance.
At the conclusion of the meeting, Ramsey was voted into the commission chair position and Commissioner Michael Chang was voted in as vice chair, with Calavita and Mizell stepping down.
“You have done extremely instrumental work for the commission for the past year,” Perezvelez said to Calavita at the meeting. “Your steadfast leadership, focus and diligence is what created the ability for us to be a catalyst for a lot of different changes in this commission in a very formative year.”