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New subcommittee on Urban Shield should side against the program

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JULY 10, 2017

Four days before Berkeley City Council voted to continue the Urban Shield police training program, the police officer who killed Philando Castile was acquitted by a jury of his peers.

Only a week later, BPD faced new allegations of racial profiling from UC Berkeley student Ismael Chamu.

In Berkeley and beyond, policing systems are invariably broken.   

City Council decided to continue using Urban Shield training despite the serious and convincing allegations of militarization and racial profiling that have stemmed from the program. Berkeley, even with its progressive reputation, does not buck national trends.

The vote slated Urban Shield to continue on as a program into the fall and created a new subcommittee that will determine how to proceed with the program. That subcommittee, which will invariably look into the many allegations of racial targeting and racialized police violence levied against Urban Shield and BPD, will now have a new tool at its disposal — on June 27, City Council voted to release BPD’s racial profiling data.

But despite the decision to release the racial profiling data, many progressives on City Council committed political betrayal by voting to continue Urban Shield. Jesse Arreguín, the people’s mayor, took a page from his predecessor’s book, putting off the vote repeatedly and sitting through hours of angry public comment before ultimately voting against the commenters’ collective will.

Even in one of the most progressive cities in the United States, with many residents highly vocal against police brutality, it’s all politics as usual.

What will another subcommittee tell the community members that they don’t already know? This subcommittee had better comb through the racial profiling data before they decide that a program with a reputation of militarization is continued even further.

Obviously, Berkeley residents don’t quite know what the racial profiling data says — they haven’t seen it yet. But BPD’s refusal to release it early gives the impression that the data hides something nefarious. BPD’s excuses — that the racial profiling data was incomplete or required further analysis — felt tenuous at best. Either way, that data should have been released and explored before Urban Shield was reinstated.

Ismael Chamu’s story is probably not unique in the city of Berkeley. To the new subcommittee in charge of reviewing Urban Shield: take careful note not only of the newly released racial profiling data as it emerges, but also of stories like that of Chamu, a student like any other. He is whom BPD and City Council must ultimately answer to, and the alleged injustice done to him is on all of our hands.

Editorials represent the majority opinion of the Editorial Board as written by the opinion editor.

JULY 10, 2017