Police Accountability Board recruitment material draws criticism

Photo of a bpd car
Theo Wyss-Flamm/Senior Staff
Police Accountability Board members discussed issues surrounding existing recruitment materials for their open positions.

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The Berkeley Police Accountability Board, or PAB, met Wednesday to review materials being used to recruit for the positions of permanent director of police accountability and police accountability investigator for the PAB.

Since July 2021, the board has been led by interim director Katherine Lee, according to the city website. The board is currently looking for a permanent replacement. The Berkeley City Council is also participating in the search and has hired the Byers Group, an independent recruitment company, according to Berkeleyside.

The Byers Group produced a brochure for the PAB director hiring process. But the issue at hand, said PAB member Deborah Levine, is that the brochure featured a photo of police officers on the cover. Levine argued that the brochure was misleading as to whom the PAB intended to hire.

“This is not a job that is hired by the police department. It’s not a police department job. It’s civilian oversight,” Levine said. “If I give this brochure to somebody, I need to give them a disclaimer because it’s very clear from the photographs that what’s being said is ‘This a job coming through the police department and for the police department.’ ”

The PAB replaced the former Police Review Commission in November 2020 when city residents passed Measure II. The PAB was created with the intention of increasing citizen oversight on the police. It was also intended to provide oversight officers more time to investigate, with greater access to police records and an ability to recommend discipline.

In the hiring process, the PAB has worked with the Berkeley City Council and the Byers Group to draft recruitment material, and has been able to edit the written component of the brochure, according to PAB member Ismail Ramsey. While several board members expressed their disapproval at the photo selection, some, such as Ramsey, were skeptical about escalating the fight.

“If this can’t be changed, I don’t really see why we would use our political capital to try to argue about this,” Ramsey said. “If the city council approved it, I don’t think it’s our place to be questioning that.”

But other PAB members have felt excluded from the hiring process, and expressed confusion as to what their role would entail in the hiring process.

PAB members decided to have Levine address the city manager asking for clarification. If the city manager does not respond, the PAB members expressed a desire for a subcommittee to write a formal letter to the Byers Group and the city manager.

“Are they the best photos? No, they’re not. But they are there, we live with them,” said PAB member Cheryl Owens. “The pictures are what they are … it’s appropriate that the board steps up and says, ‘We want to be part of the process of the selection.’ ”

David Villani is a crime and courts reporter. Contact him at [email protected], and follow him on Twitter at @DavidVillani7.