Chancellor’s Independent Advisory Board addresses police reform, drug decriminalization during 2nd meeting

Photo of UCPD vehicle
David McAllister/Staff
The Chancellor’s Independent Advisory Board on Police Accountability and Community Safety discussed UCPD’s presence on campus at its meeting.

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The Chancellor’s Independent Advisory Board on Police Accountability and Community Safety, or IAB, held its second public meeting Tuesday to discuss policing within the community.

The IAB was formed in 2019 to address community concerns about law enforcement presence and campus safety. According to Steve Raphael, UC Berkeley professor of public policy and director of the Institute for Research on Labour and Employment, this year’s board is focused on responses to mental health and homelessness.

“The real opportunity we have here is to engage in a national conversation about community alternatives to policing,” said Kerby Lynch, an IAB student co-chair, during the meeting. “We are centering on abolitionism, we are centering on care ethics when we’re thinking about what changes need to be done and we are definitely centering on reparations and racial healing.”

Tuesday’s agenda items included presentations from Laila Aziz, director of operations at Pillars of the Community; Jack Farrell, an instructor at Columbia College and Eris Nyx and Jeremy Kalicum, organizers for the Drug User Liberation Front.

Aziz’s presentation focused on police reform and accountability. She discussed an ordinance passed by voters in San Diego, which would create independent police commissions and noted that the ordinance was later dropped by the city attorney, who also represented the police department.

“It’s always five steps forward, six steps backward and it’s frustrating,” Aziz said during the meeting. “Those are some of the things that occur when the voiceless keep going unheard.”

Aziz also noted the role of mental health and substance abuse in poverty and policing, suggesting that an alternative to prosecuting people for such charges would be to provide them with support and mentoring.

Her sentiments about substance usage were echoed by Farrell, Nyx and Kalicum, who discussed drug decriminalization in the context of Vancouver and British Columbia. Farrell noted the discourse in British Columbia about decriminalizing the “simple possession of drugs.”

“You cannot prevent drug poisoning deaths unless you have some degree of control or regulation over the supply of drugs,” Farrell said during the meeting.

The meeting concluded with a time for public commentary, during which Lucy Andrews, a campus graduate student board member, condemned stigmatizing language in regards to drug use.

Lynch also brought up campus’ history of drug criminalization, eugenics and welfare discourse toward the end of the meeting.

“If we leave it up to the administration and law enforcement to usher in our liberation, then it will not be liberation,” Lynch said during the meeting. “It is ultimately our obligation and our responsibility … and ultimately our self-determination that’s going to make these changes.”

Contact Kavya Gupta at [email protected], and follow her on Twitter at @kavyaguptta.