UC Berkeley faculty, community leaders discuss police reform in town hall event

Photo of a police officer on a motorcycle
Brianna Luna/File
During a conversation co-sponsored by the Goldmann School of Public Policy and UC Berkeley Social Science Matrix, speakers discussed police reform following national protests and the murder of George Floyd. The conversation is part of UC Berkeley’s Reimagining Democracy Town Hall series.

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Faculty and community leaders came together to discuss police reform and budget reduction in a Tuesday conversation co-sponsored by the Goldman School of Public Policy and UC Berkeley Social Science Matrix.

The conversation is part of the campus Reimagining Democracy Town Hall series, which seeks to increase public access to UC Berkeley’s expertise and contribute to timely political conversations. Tuesday’s town hall aimed to address police reform in the wake of national protests, particularly in response to the murder of George Floyd.

“There’s less agreement on the meaning of what could or should be abolished or defunded — or what can be meaningfully reformed,” said Dan Lindheim, campus public policy adjunct professor, during the event. “This has advanced, as well as complicated, the crucial debate about the appropriate role of police and policing in our society.”

Danielle Outlaw, Philadelphia Police Department police commissioner and former Oakland Police Department deputy police chief, was one speaker at the event.

According to Outlaw, a poll was distributed in Philadelphia after a period of unrest consumed the city in May. The poll found that attitudes toward the police force had generally become less positive, and nearly three out of five respondents were in favor of police reform, Outlaw said during the event.

Outlaw added that the most “surprising part” was the fact that almost 45% of Philadelphia residents thought the police department was not large enough.

“What do community members want?” Outlaw said at the event. “Is it a small vocal group that’s saying abolish? Is it another group over here saying defund? Who is really the true voice of the community? What we found was that there are varying perspectives.”

According to Outlaw, she is committed to bringing reform to the Philadelphia Police Department, noting that there should be more investment in social services. She said she does not agree, however, that these funds should be taken from the police force.

Nikki Fortunato Bas, Oakland City Council president and co-chair of Oakland’s Reimagining Public Safety Taskforce, also spoke at the event. According to Bas, the task force aims to redirect 50% of the police budget toward programs and social services.

Under this task force, recommendations have been made to reimagine Oakland public safety. These recommendations include increasing safety, providing alternative responses to nonviolent crimes and investing in the root causes of poverty, Bas added.

“This movement has really focused on investments in those root causes of poverty and violence,” Bas said during the town hall. “Study after study shows that living wage, access to holistic health services, educational opportunities, stable housing and these things are far more successful in reducing crime than incarceration.”

Kelly Suth is the lead race and diversity reporter. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @kellyannesuth.