The Berkeley Police Accountability Board, or PAB, heard two sexual incident cases, continued conversations of privacy concerns and introduced hiring efforts at its regular Wednesday meeting.
At the beginning, Berkeley Police Department chair Michael Chang commended his police department for its effective communication with city council members in light of the antisemitic flyers distributed last weekend. The BPD responded with a joint statement on Monday launching its “United Against Hate” flyers solidarity campaign.
BPD chief Jennifer Louis followed by updating the board on two sexually involved cases that occurred in Berkeley this month.
“These were two pretty significant cases for our community both resulting in arrests by our bike force team, and good investigative work by our officers,” Louis said at the meeting.
BPD officers arrested a man in Ohlone Park who had allegedly chased women on two different occasions, and allegedly threatened to rape one of the women, according to Louis.
The second case involved charges of annoying and molesting a minor and engaging in lewd conduct after a vehicle with incriminating evidence was found circulating Sylvia Mendez Elementary School on Feb. 16. Officers received information from the school resource officer about a similar case in January.
Later on the meeting agenda, the PAB reviewed privacy footage policies for officer body and surveillance cameras, continuing their previous discussion Feb. 11.
PAB member Julie Leftwich introduced proposed changes to the Body Worn Cameras policy made by PAB vice chair Nathan Mizell, which would permit the PAB, director of police accountability and PAB investigators to access footage from officer body cameras as part of ongoing criminal investigations.
PAB interim director Katherine Lee noted that some cases take years to resolve and other investigations invoke footage from related cases, during which body camera footage would be inaccessible to the PAB.
“Not getting that information could hamper our ability to conduct an investigation thoroughly and transparently,” Chang said at the meeting.
Chang said confidentiality would be maintained through the proposed changes. PAB member Deborah Levine added that she, among other members, takes her oath of confidentiality “very seriously.”
Lee recommended flexibility in the face of a nuanced policy and cautioned against issuing a blanket statement restricting footage access. The PAB ultimately decided on open language permitting access to the footage.
To conclude the meeting, Lee announced her upcoming retirement from the PAB interim director position scheduled for June 30.
The PAB discussed recruitment efforts for a new permanent director and private investigator. Chang noted Lee is a “critical” component of the board and has become a friend to many members.
“We appreciate all of the efforts over the many, many years,” Chang said at the meeting. “You certainly make the PAB move along very efficiently, and I think without your presence it will be very, very hard.”