Berkeley’s Police Review Commission, or PRC, revamped warrant procedures and discussed potential COVID-19 vaccination mandates for police officers, among other issues, during Thursday evening’s meeting.
By approving a recommendation for the Berkeley Police Department to adopt Policy 606, the commission effectively called for banning no-knock warrants and providing officers with updated protocols ranging from warrant preparation to potential media access. Before passing the motion, however, the commission added a sentence stressing that “The Sanctity of Life, as described in the Use of Force policy, is a guiding principle.”
Commissioners also discussed a potential COVID-19 vaccine mandate within the BPD but raised questions regarding its legality, even if exceptions were made for health or religious reasons.
Although officers originally faced difficulties receiving the COVID-19 vaccine through the city, vaccines have been made available to officers, nonsworn staff, jail staff and clerical staff, according to BPD Capt. Rico Rolleri. He added that most officers who have been vaccinated received their doses through the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office.
“(We) want the public to understand that public servants are actually vaccinated and that they serve as a role model,” said commissioner Mike Chang during the meeting, adding that the commission should also work to ensure officers can receive boosters once they become available.
Rolleri added during the meeting that BPD employees are required to wear an N95 mask whenever they are within six feet of someone else. This policy, he said, “far exceeds (those of) the city and the state and the CDC.”
The commission also listened to Lt. Joe Okies, who spoke on behalf of BPD officers and raised concerns about ambiguity in the use of force guidelines.
“We don’t want officers to rush into things, but there are times we expect officers to properly resolve situations,” Okies said during the meeting. “There is hesitancy because of questions about minimal standard.”
Okies also presented on Blue Team, a software system that sergeants and supervisors use to log data. Completing these records through Blue Team, according to Okies and Rolleri, is time-consuming.
While neither Okies or Rolleri advocated for stopping the use of Blue Team, they did suggest revising reporting processes for cases with lower levels of use of force.
“It became so cumbersome for (officers) to enter data, they didn’t have enough people on the streets to respond to things,” Rolleri said during the meeting. “We’re pulling people off the street to document things that are in a normal police report.”
Rolleri also provided the commission with staffing updates, specifically noting a decrease in available officers, with 19 currently injured and several others planning to go to other agencies.
While the commission had originally planned to discuss officer training and tracking of hate crimes, these discussions, among others, have been pushed to its next May 26 meeting.