California’s Public Employment Relations Board, or PERB, issued a complaint to the city of Berkeley on Dec. 1 after reviewing the Berkeley Police Association’s allegations of unfair labor practices.
In March, the Berkeley Police Association, or BPA, filed an unfair practice charge against the city, alleging that the city’s Police Accountability Board, or PAB, violated state employment law, said J. Felix De La Torre, PERB general counsel.
“The association filed a charge alleging that the city of Berkeley changed the terms and conditions of the employees at the city, the police officers, without informing the union and without giving the union an opportunity to sit down and negotiate the changes,” De La Torre said.
State law requires employers who intend to change working conditions to first inform the union and provide the opportunity to bargain in good faith, De La Torre noted.
The PAB allegedly made changes that allowed it to make its own misconduct claims without claims from the public and overturn misconduct investigation findings from the PAB director, according to Zachery Lopes, BPA attorney and partner at the law firm Rains Lucia Stern St. Phalle & Silver, PC. Additionally, the BPA alleged that the board created a 180-day statute of limitations for filing claims of misconduct, according to De La Torre.
“The union was at the table with the city when the charter amendment was created to create the Police Accountability Board,” said Nathan Mizell, who served as the PAB’s vice chair until this week. “I believe we have respected that charter amendment in our actions.”
The PAB has been active since July 2021 and was approved by Berkeley voters in November 2020 to replace the Police Review Commission, Mizell said. The city allegedly adopted interim regulations for the board without negotiating with the union, according to Lopes.
Mizell declined to comment from an official standpoint, but provided his personal take on the proceedings. He called it “standard practice” for the union to assert a right that has been previously bargained, but said he believes the board included the BPA in meetings.
Lopes said the BPA has been “pleading” with the city to adhere to state labor law. A series of letters from Rains Lucia Stern St. Phalle & Silver, PC to city officials, dating back to August 2021, requested that the BPA be notified of procedural changes within the PAB, Lopes said.
A letter from Rains Lucia Stern St. Phalle & Silver, PC to City Attorney Farimah Brown, dated Jan. 21, 2022, states, “the city has refused to engage the BPA in formal meet and confer.”
The city issued an official response to BPA’s allegations in May stating that PERB should not issue a complaint. The document states that the city “satisfied its obligations” to notify and negotiate with the union.
“BPA’s charge is meritless,” the document reads. “The policy changes BPA targets in its charge … are the product of multiple meet-and-confer processes.”
Lopes alleged the PAB applied the unnegotiated regulations and began going through body camera footage to find misconduct without any associated complaint of misconduct. Additionally, they allegedly rejected the director’s findings in at least one case, he said.
The PAB has not responded to these allegations as of press time.
If the allegations are proved truthful after the ensuing investigation, all of the PAB’s investigation findings could be voided, Lopes noted.
“The goal is really to just get the city to comply with and respect state labor law rights of the association,” Lopes said