Berkeley Police Accountability Board meeting discusses working toward police reformation

photo of the BPD building
Nora Povejsil/Staff
The Berkeley Police Accountability Board held public comment during its meeting Wednesday to discuss improvements and updates regarding police reform.

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The Berkeley Police Accountability Board, or PAB, discussed police reform and received a report from the city police chief at its regular meeting Wednesday.

During the public comment session at the start of the meeting, Berkeley resident Kitt Saginor expressed frustration with how the city government handles new policies on police conduct. According to Saginor, the city government institutes plans, yet always “manages to go around in circles.”

For example, according to Saginor, last January’s decision to give a written consent form to those who are voluntarily searched has not been carried out because the form has not been written.

“I really can’t see why it couldn’t have been written in a week,” Saginor said during the meeting. “That form is still being worked on. To me, that’s foot-dragging.”

Berkeley Police Sgt. Robert Rittenhouse attended the meeting on behalf of the BPD chief. In his report, Rittenhouse shared a “case of interest” in which two suspects were arrested in connection to a Sept. 4 shooting in West Berkeley.

Rittenhouse credited a series of successfully executed search warrants to license plate readers, surveillance videos and a group of law enforcement agencies including the United States Marshals Services.

Rittenhouse then responded to a series of questions, concerns and comments from members of the PAB. Board member Julie Leftwich expressed her support for shoot-to-incapacitate training, based on a program instituted in La Grange, Georgia, to lower the risk of officer-involved deaths.

Board member Ismail Ramsey then asked about BPD’s progress in vaccinating all officers against COVID-19. Rittenhouse explained all BPD members must be fully vaccinated by Nov. 15, but he does not know the number of currently vaccinated officers.

The meeting closed with an anecdote from Rittenhouse on the importance of crisis management in law enforcement.

“Our department is constantly looking to improve,” Rittenhouse said during the meeting. “We don’t get it perfect every time. I know that. But we certainly do get it right consistently. And it’s one of the reasons that I have stayed with this department.”

Contact Lance Roberts at [email protected], and follow him on Twitter at @lance_roberts.