Police Accountability Board hears updates, reviews commendations

photo of berkeley police station
Jackie Samsell/File
Berkeley's Police Accountability Board discussed police commendations, among other topics, at its regular meeting May 11.

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The city of Berkeley’s Police Accountability Board heard updates from the Berkeley Police Department, or BPD, and looked over potential police commendations, among other things, at its regular meeting Wednesday night.

After the meeting’s agenda was approved, public comment commenced.

One public speaker, Berkeley resident Charles Clark, used their time to “commend” the BPD for their relatively high “yield rate” in suspect searches — a metric used to show how many searches actually yield some result for police officers.

Across California, Clark said, the yield rate is 22.4%, or about one in five, while in Berkeley, the yield rate is about 44%, or nearly one in two. Clark said the yield rates for different races could also be indicative of whether or not biased policing is occurring, since lower yield rates for a racial group could suggest unfair searches are being conducted.

According to Clark, in Berkeley, rates appear to stay similar between Black and white people searched.

Several other commenters discussed the specific language used to describe the military equipment policy and encouraged the board to look at existing examples of the language, such as from the Oakland Police Department.

The board later heard remarks from BPD Interim Chief Jennifer Louis. Louis updated the board on a new transparency hub the department is working on, which will provide both raw and more “digestible” data about police activity, such as yield rates and use of force rates.

The hub will be updated daily and the department will solicit community feedback as the hub is developed, Louis added.

“The idea is that those who may not have expertise or a background in data analysis are still able to make sense of the information,” Louis said during the meeting.

Louis also updated the board on BPD hiring statistics. Since her last update, she said, two people had been hired to go through the police academy, one officer had retired and three had resigned, leaving the BPD count at 152 members.

After subcommittee members made reports, the board reviewed BPD personnel commendations. The board agreed that to receive a commendation from them, all submitted actions would have to exhibit one or more of four characteristics: exceptional valor, superior handling of difficult situations, actions that go far beyond what would be considered typical duties or extreme empathy or compassion.

After a lengthy discussion, the board decided on several commendations and to revisit the commendation process in another meeting to look into additional board nominations.

The board voted soon after to create an ad hoc committee to address agenda item 10a., which concerns the boards review, response and recommendations to items related to reports prepared under the Police Equipment & Community Safety Ordinance and AB 481.

After hearing a presentation about the administrative closure of a complaint, the board adjourned. The next regular meeting of the board will be held May 25.

Contact Sebastian Cahill at [email protected], and follow him on Twitter at @SebastianCahil1.