During its regular meeting Tuesday evening, Berkeley City Council discussed police reporting of controlled equipment and affordable housing — marking a historic vote for the city.
The council unanimously passed the consent calendar, which included the largest investment in affordable housing in the city’s history, according to Mayor Jesse Arreguín.
“We all know it is so hard to afford to live in Berkeley and much of the Bay Area,” said Rebecca Saltzman, vice president of the District 3 BART Board, during the meeting. “This vote tonight to ensure high levels of affordability at both Ashby and North Berkeley BART is incredibly important.”
The council then discussed an item on the action calendar that would adopt an ordinance requiring police to report the deployment of controlled equipment, including long-range acoustic devices, or LRADs, M40 patrol rifles and less lethal launchers, among other police equipment.
The item, which was introduced by Councilmember Kate Harrison, drew controversy and disagreement from some council members.
“Our ordinance enshrines two basic principles, that the public has the right to know what equipment is being purchased and for what use,” Harrison said during the meeting. “The second basic principle is that the public has the right to know when and where the equipment was deployed. Reporting in this ordinance is triggered when the equipment is deployed.”
Police officers who carry a weapon or have a weapon visible would not trigger a report as it is not considered to be an act of deployment, according to Harrison. Additionally, Harrison provided examples of deployment, including holding a specialized rifle or a baton during a crowd management situation.
Councilmember Rashi Kesarwani proposed an alternative to the ordinance in opposition to Harrison’s proposal. Kesarwani argued that the ordinance would take valuable time away from police, and added that she believes the report under the ordinance is already covered in the city’s use of force policy, particularly concerning less-lethal launchers and M40 patrol rifles.
“I am not clear as to why the Controlled Equipment Ordinance would ask our police officers to spend more time recording a second controlled equipment report for these two items and take precious time away from responding to serious crimes in progress or investigations of violent crimes,” Kesarwani said during the meeting.
Arreguín and Harrison disagreed with Kesarwani’s argument that the reporting under the ordinance would be duplicative.
Councilmember Susan Wengraf had an additional concern that the ordinance did not distinguish between harmful use of LRADs and its use in emergency situations such as earthquakes and floods.
Despite the debate, the item passed unanimously with the support of both Kesarwani and Wengraf.