Following the conclusion of the independent investigation looking into allegations of misconduct and racist text messages by the Berkeley Police Department Bike Unit, the Berkeley Police Accountability Board, or PAB, expressed frustration with the lack of transparency surrounding the findings.
The allegations were originally released last November by former BPD officer Corey Shedoudy following his firing. Shedoudy made allegations of arrest quotas and racial bias through a series of text messages, shared by the PAB, appearing to be sent between officers of the bike team, according to a PAB press release.
In response to the allegations, Swanson and McNamara LLP conducted an independent investigation. The investigation correctly attributed the text messages to BPD officers. The messages contained mentions of arrest quotas, racial bias, quid pro quo and the use of stop and frisk.
Currently, the PAB has not been given access to the full report by Swanson and McNamara, nor have the released portions of the report reached any conclusions beyond authenticating that the original senders and recipients of these texts were BPD officers.
According to the PAB’s press release, city officials stated “the department does not have a practice of racial bias” and “the department does not have any arrest quotas.” However, city spokesperson Matthai Chakko declined to provide The Daily Californian with any comment beyond the “Summary of Investigation Process” document previously provided by Swanson and McNamara. This document only explains the investigation process but does not draw any conclusions about its results.
Further, past reporting by The Daily Californian showed racial disparities in 2022 BPD stop data.
The conclusions from the city cited in the PAB’s press release are also not endorsed by the board at this time. Much of the information from the report remains confidential, leaving PAB members frustrated.
The PAB also shared an email from City Councilmember Kate Harrison who said she was “extremely troubled” by the office of the city manager’s statement saying there were no findings of arrest quotas or racial bias. She added that the city manager is both in charge of BPD and the body releasing information regarding the investigation.
The conclusions reached by the city manager’s office include claims that extended beyond the Downtown Bike Task Force under investigation and implicated the whole department, according to Harrison.
“It is a breach of protocol and undemocratic to keep the investigation confidential while simultaneously releasing drips of information without context to absolve the department and management,” Harrison said in the email. “This behavior breeds further mistrust about government and the independent nature of the investigation.”
Statements from the city absolving BPD of racial bias and the usage of arrest quotas were also criticized by members of the PAB and the public alike.
In its press release, the PAB expressed concern about the scope of the investigation not supporting the characterization of the results shared by the city.
George Lippman, a concerned citizen, also expressed dissatisfaction with the results of the investigation at the meeting. Lippman was especially unhappy with the PAB’s inability to verify the claims made by the city because of the report remaining confidential.
“I believe that the assertions they’re making are what they really believe,” Lippman said in a public comment referring to the statements made by the city manager’s office. “They have to be able to give proof of that.”
PAB member Kitty Calavita motioned to send a letter to the city council and city manager’s office; this was unanimously passed by the board. The letter was suggested to include an expression of disappointment with the conclusions of the investigation shared by the city spokesperson, a request for the public to receive the redacted version of the report and the assertion that the full PAB should be granted access to at least the redacted version of the report.
During the meeting, PAB member Leah Wilson pressed James Chang, deputy city attorney, to try to get a clear statement on the expected timeline by which the PAB would receive the full report. Chang refused to share an estimate in a public meeting and requested a private conversation.
Wilson also expressed her distaste with the limited information shared on July 20 by the city manager’s office and the lack of transparency, adding that the citizens of Berkeley should be allowed to see a redacted version of the full investigation.
“(The documents) were pretty useless from an oversight perspective, and that’s all we’ve received to date so I’m very concerned,” Wilson said. “We do believe that we should see this report.”
To conclude the meeting, PAB chair John “Chip” Moore requested the board agendize for its next meeting in September to host a closed session to speak directly with the city attorney’s office.
Moore insisted this meeting is necessary to clarify issues brought up earlier in the meeting.
“I’m committed to working this out,” Moore said to Chang. “We’ll find a way.”