Berkeley Police Review Commission discusses ordinance, no-knock warrants

Photo of BPD car
Phillip Downey/File
At its Wednesday meeting, the Berkeley Police Review Commission celebrated the passing of the Controlled Equipment Ordinance, which was unanimously approved by the Berkeley City Council the day before. The commission also discussed the usage of no-knock warrants in Berkeley.

Related Posts

The Berkeley Police Review Commission, or PRC, met Wednesday to discuss the approval of the Controlled Equipment Ordinance by the city council and the future of no-knock warrants in the city of Berkeley.

The PRC, which was established in 1973, is an oversight agency with the purpose of ensuring that the Berkeley Police Department is operating in the interest of the community. Along with investigating instances of police misconduct, the PRC also advises city leaders on the operations of BPD.

“The PRC is empowered to review and advise on any function of the department, including, but not limited to: hiring and training, use of weapons and equipment, and budget development,” the city website states.

During the meeting, attendees celebrated the passing of the Controlled Equipment Ordinance, which was unanimously approved by the city council on Tuesday. The ordinance, which was authored and submitted by Councilmember Kate Harrison, would require BPD to report any deployment of controlled equipment. The agenda describes “controlled equipment” as vehicles with attached weapons, explosives, batons and certain firearms and ammunition. 

According to the council agenda, a subcommittee of the PRC extensively reviewed and approved the ordinance.

“This is the price that the department is going to have to pay in terms of bending over backward for those elements of trust and accountability that members of the public wish to have,” said Berkeley resident Charles Clark during the meeting.

Along with the ordinance, the commission also discussed the usage of no-knock warrants in Berkeley. The PRC had previously established a subcommittee devoted to analyzing the language of Lexipol Policy 606, which concerns the use of warrants.

PRC commissioner chair Ismail Ramsey said the subcommittee voted 5-0 to recommend a complete ban on no-knock warrants, prompting disagreement from some attendees.

“The way we envision the possibilities of using it or needing a tool like that is actually to reduce risk,” said BPD lieutenant Dan Montgomery. “There are times and situations where if the tactic reduces risk to hostages, suspects and officers, then that would be the time we’d want to use it.”

Commissioner Michael Chang countered this stance, emphasizing the value of public trust.

Chang added that the ban on no-knock warrants is an increasing trend for the nation.

“It was a balancing concern,” Chang said during the meeting. “We don’t want to curtail (the BPD’s) access to tools that they might need in some type of extreme outlier circumstances that could potentially happen, but the other hand, is the value of public trust — that is of equal value.”

After an extensive discussion, Ramsey suspended the topic and stated that the commission will later vote on whether or not to recommend banning no-knock warrants definitively.

Contact Kelly Suth at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @kellyannesuth.