In the wake of Andrew Greenwood’s announcement of his retirement as Berkeley Police Department chief Thursday, Berkeley community members reflected on his tenure as police chief and their hopes for the future.
Greenwood has served with BPD for the last 35 years and was appointed as permanent police chief in 2017, and he will step down effective March 12. Although Greenwood has been commended for his work as police chief, many community members expressed that community action is necessary in order to enact significant change in policing regardless of who the current police chief is.
“I think very few, if any, institutions embrace transformative change without being pushed,” said Berkeley City Councilmember Sophie Hahn in an email. “The status quo has a lot of power because our world is built around it, and it can be hard to see beyond existing practices and paradigms, especially when one has a good heart and good intent, as is the case with Chief Greenwood.”
Hahn and Nathan Mizell, a member of Berkeley’s Police Review Commission, said the most important qualities for the new permanent police chief is an understanding of the inherent flaws in policing. Hahn added that a belief that the very institution of policing needs to change to serve all communities equitably is equally important.
Mizell noted that he is looking forward to having a “robust conversation” with Capt. Jen Louis, who was appointed as interim police chief to ensure that the “necessary” progress continues under her tenure.
Hahn said in the email that she is excited Berkeley will have its first female police chief, adding that Louis is a “seasoned and respected professional” who she believes will do great work for Berkeley.
Growing up in Berkeley with Greenwood, and even graduating from Berkeley High School one year before him, Hahn recalled Greenwood serving as an official “crossing guard” prior to his time as police chief. Greenwood always took public safety and care for his community seriously on a deep personal level, according to Hahn.
Hahn and Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguín commended Greenwood for his work managing hate group protests in the city of Berkeley.
“Other jurisdictions that were the target of similar provocations learned a lot from Berkeley and I believe that is a significant accomplishment,” Hahn said in the email. “Policing is measured in large part by what ‘didn’t’ happen— and Chief Greenwood has successfully managed many challenging situations.”
Under Greenwood’s tenure, various police reform measures were passed, including use-of-force policy changes, assessments of bias in traffic stops and searches and the requirement of body cameras for all officers.
However, Mizell added, none of these reforms could have occurred without significant community action, advocacy and grassroots organizing. According to Mizell, students have a responsibility to get involved in the city’s efforts toward police reform.
“We need students to be active in this work,” Mizell said. “Even though it’s on the city side of things, this affects all of our lives as students and it affects the lives of so many people in the community each and every day.”