Berkeley’s Police Accountability Board, or PAB, appointed John Moore as its new chair during its bimonthly meeting Sept. 28.
Board members also discussed the ongoing hiring process for Berkeley Police Department’s chief of police and the ways PAB can be more involved in BPD affairs.
Early in the meeting, PAB vice chair Nathan Mizell withdrew himself from candidacy for the chair due to a notice from the City Attorney’s Office. According to Mizell, since he is running to be a Berkeley Rent Stabilization Board commissioner, he would be an officer of the city if elected and therefore cannot serve as a member of the PAB.
The decision was then made between board members John Moore and Cheryl Owens. Moore was elected in a 4-2 vote.
The PAB also discussed board member reports, zeroing in on issues with communication between the city and the PAB. Mizell announced that the PAB charter was currently under review by the mayor’s office and the city attorney, and that the PAB should be hearing back from the city within the next few weeks.
Mizell also said during the meeting the city manager’s office had privately emailed him, informing him that interviews for the BPD chief of police candidates were to be scheduled for Oct. 6.
Mizell noted his dissatisfaction with the timeline established by the city. The current timeline would not give the PAB enough time to go through the necessary steps of creating a subcommittee, selecting interviewers and voting on everything proposed, according to Mizell.
“I certainly don’t think the board would be out of line to assert its powers in the charter and ask for a process that allows us to exercise, or at least have the opportunity to exercise, the fully delineated powers of the charter to potentially form a subcommittee,” Mizell said during the meeting.
The comments led to a larger discussion by the PAB regarding the city’s adherence t0 the PAB charter.
Owens said during the meeting the annual board report had been issued months ago. According to the charter, the PAB needs to adopt the terms before it is sent to the mayor and City Council. Owens added that the charter was sent to the PAB, the mayor and City Council at the same time.
Mizell said during the meeting the subversion of the charter by the city attorney through contacting him instead of the PAB was not intentional, but still necessary to discuss with the city. He noted that the PAB has experienced issues with the charter being followed despite it being an “immutable document.”
According to Mizell, he wants to communicate with the city that the PAB needs to be a part of the BPD hiring process.
“We get bypassed in many of these important processes,” Deborah Levine, PAB board member, said during the meeting. “These things need to be addressed promptly and clearly so we aren’t bypassed.”
The PAB approved a motion for a special meeting Sept. 30 to discuss creating a subcommittee for interviewing the prospective BPD chief of police. Owens said during the meeting the PAB needs to ensure someone from the city manager’s office or human resources is present to gain information about the hiring process.
Levine expressed a more skeptical perspective on the exclusion of the PAB from the hiring process, noting parallels with the process for hiring the PAB director.
During the meeting, BPD Lieutenant Dan Montgomery also gave his report on the current state of BPD affairs, noting an increase in shootings compared to 2021.
According to Montgomery, BPD has had 36 shootings this year up until August, compared to last year’s 27 in the same time range. Montgomery added that BPD has seen 75 guns in the past eight months with 48 related to calls for service, nine in proactive police stops and 18 in detective investigations.
“Coming out of COVID, things are starting to pick back up. We’re starting to get more serious crime reports, more activity in the streets. … But the exact reason why they’re up is always kind of hard to identify,” Montgomery said during the meeting.
Currently, PBD is seeing low levels of applications in its hiring efforts. Montgomery noted that the staff is at an all-time low of 130 active officers from a total of 150 on staff. He encouraged community members to apply.