With recent scrutiny placed on the nation’s police, Berkeley City Council will hold a special meeting and regular meeting Tuesday to discuss updating Berkeley Police Department practices.
During the regular City Council meeting, Councilmember Kriss Worthington will propose a ballot measure to be placed in November’s elections that will increase police accountability in the city. According to Worthington, this measure, if passed, will make the Police Review Commission an independent entity that is not subordinate to the police chief.
According to PRC Officer Kathy Lee, the Police Review Commission is designed to review the policies and practices of BPD and investigate individual complaints received concerning the department. Worthington expressed concern that the PRC is not able to access enough information regarding BPD in order to effectively do its job.
“They can’t reach out and get the info of the history they’re asked to consider. They can’t see documents,” Worthington said. “There’s so much information that’s kept away from them.”
Council will also be holding a special meeting beforehand to discuss the police department’s use of in-vehicle and body-worn cameras. According to PRC member Alison Bernstein, BPD currently does not have either cameras.
The PRC had previously said it would recommend cameras if funding was provided by the city. They are currently considering either body-worn or dashboard cameras, as they are the most price effective.
“It’s not just what’s happening across the country, it’s what’s happening here in Berkeley,” Worthington said, adding that BPD needed to increase police accountability. “We need to move forward too.”
The meeting will place a focus especially on BPD and many members of the PRC are scheduled to speak during the work session. Currently, San Francisco and Richmond police departments are working to update their practices, and Oakland city council will vote Tuesday to update practices.
Another initiative that the council will be voting on during the meeting is whether or not to support building a structure on 1500 San Pablo Ave., approved by the city Zoning Adjustment Board, amid an appeal raised by community members.
According to city spokesperson Matthai Chakko, this new structure would demolish a two-story commercial building and replace it with a 60-foot tall residential building. The new building would contain 16 units of affordable housing for low-income households.
The appeal was sent by community members in a letter to city Mayor Tom Bates and City Council stating that they support the development of the site but would like to see modifications to its design. They proposed that the community work together with the developers in order to create a site that would suit the neighborhood better.
Berkeley City Council will be holding its special meeting and regular meeting, Tuesday at 5:30 p.m. and 7:00 p.m., respectively, in the Old City Hall chambers.