Police Review Commission discusses Police Accountability Board transition, community engagement

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Theo Wyss-Flamm/Staff
The Berkeley Police Review Commission discussed its transition to the Police Accountability Board, or PRB. The PRB applicants, which totaled 37, will be voted on by Berkeley City Council on June 1.

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Berkeley’s Police Review Commission, or PRC, discussed next steps in its transition to the Police Accountability Board, or PAB, at a meeting Wednesday evening.

There were 37 total PAB applications, some of which were from current PRC members, and applicants are currently undergoing a background check, according to PRC commissioner Ismail Ramsey. Applicants will be voted on by Berkeley City Council at its June 1 meeting, in hopes that the PAB can be established by July 1, deputy city manager David White said.

White and PRC commissioner Kitty Calavita have also been working on budgeting for the office of the Director of Police Accountability and aim to present to the Budget and Finance Committee on May 6.

“One of the things that we’re super mindful about is we really want to make sure that the Police Accountability Board is high functioning from the very beginning,” White said during the meeting. “From day one, there won’t be any delay and they can process any complaints that come in and start moving forward with policy work.”

Additionally, an anonymous survey will be sent out to various nonprofit organizations, churches and advocacy groups in Berkeley, according to Calavita.

The goals of the survey are to raise awareness of the PRC’s central functions and the PAB transition and to hear from community members whether they have considered filing a complaint and their satisfaction level if they have.

“It will provide some minimal information when none currently exists about the public’s understanding of and use of the PRC complaint process,” Calavita said during the meeting. “We’re hoping that we get narrative answers as well as just fill in the blanks.”

The charter amendment that established the transition to the PAB also requires 40 hours of training for commissioners in the first six months. White added that part of the training must be done by legitimate agencies already working on police oversight.

During the PRC’s discussion of scenario-based use-of-force training offered by the police department and potentially having commissioners as observers to improve transparency and public trust, Berkeley Police Department Sgt. Robert Rittenhouse voiced some concerns.

“It’s important that the officers being trained feel free to ask open and honest questions, that it’s an environment where we’re there free to train,” Rittenhouse said during the meeting.

Updates on the Reimagining Public Safety Task Force were also given. The task force met April 8 and created two subcommittees, one focusing on moving toward new models away from policing, and another to lead a community engagement process, according to PRC commissioner Nathan Mizell.

Catherine Hsu is the lead crime and courts reporter. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @catherinehsuDC.