Allegations of misconduct against Berkeley Police Department, or BPD, were brought to Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguín and City Council on Thursday, prompting an external investigation.
Nathan Mizell, vice chair of the city Police Accountability Board, or PAB, said in a press release that these allegations against Downtown Task Force and Berkeley Bike Unit’s Sgt. Darren Kacaleck and other officers included accusations of illegal arrest quotas, racist language and anti-homeless sentiment.
Following the release of the allegations and evidence of corroborating text communication, PAB held a special meeting Tuesday, according to PAB director Hansel Aguilar.
During the meeting, PAB unanimously passed a motion to send a letter to City Council asking that it postpone the confirmation of BPD interim chief Jennifer Louis; the decision was originally scheduled for the City Council meeting Tuesday night. According to Mizell, the postponement of Louis’ appointment would allow more time for a proper investigation into the allegations.
“We clearly have the obligation and duty as the civilian oversight body to investigate,” said Deborah Levine, PAB board member, during the meeting.
The PAB passed three motions during the special meeting. In addition to the request to postpone Louis’ confirmation, the PAB also unanimously agreed to initiate a policy review and to create a subcommittee for investigation into the accusations of misconduct. The subcommittee will be overseen by PAB chair John Moore and board members Cheryl Owens and Kitty Calavita.
PAB also unanimously approved a motion to request all records related to the accused and any other files related to allegations against Downtown Task Force, Berkeley Bike Unit and any other officers involved or mentioned in the released text messages.
“These are very disturbing allegations, and we take them very seriously,” said city spokesperson Matthai Chakko in an email. “We will be hiring an external investigator to verify and investigate any and all documentation and allegations arising from this complaint. This will happen in lieu of an internal affairs investigation to avoid any question about the impartiality of the investigation.”
Mizell said in a press release that Berkeley city manager Dee Williams-Ridley recommended that City Council move forward with Louis’ confirmation after an “initial inquiry” despite the severity of the accusations. According to Mizzell, Williams-Ridley concluded that Louis had no prior knowledge of the accusations.
The PAB had also been unaware of the allegations prior to Thursday or at any point during the hiring process, according to Mizell.
During the special meeting, Moore asked that the board proceed with accountability and fairness, ensuring proper vetting of the allegations. City attorney Farimah Brown said during the meeting that this matter is currently of the highest priority and that the office is drafting a litigation hold that preserves all records.
“If at any point during my tenure, from officer to Interim Chief, I had become aware of these allegations, I would have immediately done my part to initiate an investigation,” Louis said in an email statement. “None of the alleged incidents occurred underneath my supervision.”
After the allegations were released, ASUC External Affairs Vice President Bailey Henderson, Cal Berkeley Democrats, Cal Young Democratic Socialists of America and Telegraph for People published a joint statement calling for the postponement of Louis’ appointment.
Cecilia Lunaparra, president of Cal Berkeley Democrats, alleged that these messages show that racist, anti-homeless, classist and discriminatory practices are entrenched in BPD. Henderson noted that many students on campus are already fearful of police presence; this especially pertains to students of color. With many students identifying as housing insecure, Henderson added that they are in danger under this current department.
These allegations also raised Berkeley Cop Watch’s concern about the implementation of potential quotas and racial insensitivity by BPD, according to Berkeley Cop Watch founding member Andrea Prichett.
“To have these people patrolling our streets who claim to protect us but are looking to try and arrest people without any evidence just so they can reach quotas and get awards for arresting more people is ridiculous,” Henderson said. “We wanted to just say that this is unacceptable.”