Berkeley City Council takes no action on Berkeley police chief no confidence vote

Photo of City Council Meeting
Jacob Souza/Staff
Berkeley City Council took no action on the Berkeley Police Chief Andrew Greenwood no confidence vote at its meeting Tuesday.

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After months of delay, Berkeley City Council struck down a vote of no confidence in Berkeley Police Department Chief Andrew Greenwood, citing the council’s lack of legal authority over the employment status of city department heads.

The resolution was first proposed by former Councilmember Cheryl Davila last year following a controversial statement made by Greenwood during a June city council discussion on police reform. When asked during the meeting what tear gas alternatives are available to officers as a means of crowd dispersal, Greenwood stated, “Firearms. We can shoot people,” before apologizing for the comment later in the meeting.

“Even said in haste, Chief Greenwood’s comments were not acceptable to me,” said Councilmember Kate Harrison during the council’s Tuesday meeting. “They trigger fear in people in the community who are already concerned about police brutality, and it also underlines the broad outcry for long-overdue changes in policing.”

The resolution appeared on the council’s action calendar several times following the June meeting but was repeatedly continued to later agendas, drawing criticism from some members of the community.

Dozens of city residents called into the meeting Tuesday night to voice their support for the vote against Greenwood, raising a number of grievances in addition to his controversial comment last year. Among their concerns were regular police overtime budget overages, racial disparities in discretionary police stops and recent instances of questionable use of force.

“I don’t see how Chief Greenwood is going to be able to lead us through a reimagining and a structural reform of the department,” said Berkeley Copwatch founder Andrea Prichett during public comment. “The leadership of this department has to change. We need people of vision, not just the familiars.”

Though the vast majority of public comments were made in support of the resolution, some community members called into the meeting urging the council to oppose the item.

Berkeley resident Charles Clarke took issue with the resolution during public comment, calling it “small-minded” and  “unproductive” while asserting that its language could be misleading to members of the public.

The council ultimately voted to take no action on the item, citing its lack of legal authority to oversee matters of disciplinary action or the firing of department heads in the city charter. Such authority falls into the purview of the city manager, according to city attorney Farimah Brown.

A vote of no confidence, however, does not necessarily entail termination of employment, said Moni Law, chair of the Berkeley Community Safety Coalition, during the meeting.

“You don’t have the power to hire and fire, but you do have the power to speak your mind as members who represent the residents of Berkeley,” Law said during the meeting. “It’s your duty, in fact, to do so.”

Earlier in the meeting, the city council voted to reserve $560,000 from the Housing Trust Fund to fill a gap in city funding for urgently needed repairs to the Rosewood Manor and Lorin Station Apartments, two local affordable housing developments.

Council members also allocated funding from their office budget funds to install banners signifying a two-block portion of Shattuck Avenue that was recently renamed to honor Kala Bagai, one of the city’s first South Asian immigrants, who suffered racist discrimination while living in Berkeley.

Kala Bagai Way, a street sign officially commemorating Bagai, will be unveiled Thursday, according to Mayor Jesse Arreguín.

Correction: A previous version of this article’s photo caption incorrectly stated a vote of no confidence in Berkeley Police Chief Andrew Greenwood was made by Berkeley City Council. In fact, no action was taken on the vote.

Jacob Souza is the lead city government reporter. Contact him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @jsouza_dailycal.