Berkeley passes police mutual aid agreements

Jesse Arreguín: "The issue isn't the police department. It's these other agencies"

At last night’s City Council meeting, five mutual aid memoranda regarding the Berkeley Police Department and other agencies passed by an 8-1 vote. The passage followed lengthy and at times impassioned public comment when dozens of people spoke, many arguing against the passage.

Mutual aid agreements set out the terms of cooperation between different agencies, such as when the UC Police Department requests aid from BPD.

“I believe we have one of the best police forces in the Bay Area, if not the country,” said Councilmember Jesse Arreguín, who proposed amendments to the staff recommendation on the memoranda. “The issue isn’t the police department. It’s these other agencies.”

The City Council had approved numerous mutual aid memoranda at its November 8th meeting last year. But five of the agreements were held for further review by the city manager and the Police Review Commission (PRC). The five agreements concerned the Northern California Regional Intelligence Center (NCRIC), the Urban Area Security Initiative (UASI), the UCPD, criminal intelligence, and jail operations. Last night’s vote was to approve the five, but to ask the city manager and the PRC to report back to the council on Arreguín’s amendments within 90 days.

The amendments sought to protect civil rights from what some of the public comments called “the increasing militarization of the police”. On NCRIC, for example, Arreguín proposed limiting the submission of Suspicious Activity Reports to “only those individuals/groups that have been charged with a crime, with the exception of an individual who has solely committed a civil disobedience offense.” The amendments also addressed Berkeley’s policy of being a “city of refuge”: cooperation with the Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE) sometimes conflicts with that policy, according to some councilmembers and a number of those who spoke in public comments.

Chief Meehan: more time needed to understand ramifications

Councilmembers who spoke at last night’s meeting expressed general support for Arreguín’s approach. But the majority — and both Acting City Manager Christine Daniel and Police Chief Michael Meehan — said they had not had enough time to evaluate properly the amendments, which Arreguín produced this week.

“We just need more time to even read through it,” Meehan said. “You can certainly pass bits and pieces of it, but I don’t know what the ramifications of it are in every case.”

Councilmember Kriss Worthington strongly supported Arreguín’s amendments, jokingly suggesting that the work his colleague had done justified raising his councilmember salary from $20,000 to $100,000. Worthington proposed a halfway adoption of the amendments, holding only the NCRIC and UASI items for further review.

“The public has overwhelmingly testified: ‘Please don’t approve these agreements’,” Worthington said. “I think it’s backwards to approve all the agreements and then come back with proposals.”

Only three members supported that alternative motion. The main motion, approving the staff report, passed with only Worthington voting no.

Councilmember Linda Maio tried to reassure some of the public who expressed objection to the motion.

“We want the best possible provisions in our Memoranda of Understanding that we can possibly get,” she said. “To not cooperate with ICE. To make sure our police dept is not militarized through training. I have faith that will happen because I’ve seen it happen over and over again. We’ll do it thoughtfully, we’ll do it carefully, we’ll do it collaboratively.”

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  • lauram

    My Berkeley born and educated friends who moved to  NY and experienced the Sept 11 terror attack are shaking their heads, again. 

  • Fixthestreets

    Is there a link to Arreguin’s amendments somewhere?  I see the staff recommendations, but not those.

    Also, I find it strange that the agreeements were approved, but much of the story here is about Kriss/Jesse. I’m a lot less interested in the theatrics of measures/amendments that did NOT pass.  I’m much more interested in the consequences of what DID pass.

  • There’s no link to Arreguín’s amendments because he submitted them too late to make it into the Council packet.

  • AnthonySanchez

    Last night’s vote was to approve the five, but to ask the city manager and the PRC to report back to the council on Arreguín’s amendments within 90 days.”

  • AnthonySanchez

    I’ll see about supplying the amendments to Lance for posting.

  • “the increasing militarization of the police” This is why citizens are getting shot everyday in this state by those who are supposed to protect and serve citizens not themselves…

  • Kathywak777

    Maybe Arreguin could share the ammendments with Berkeleyside so we can see what’s to be reported on in 90 days? I did not comment or turn up to the meeting because I could not support what I had not seen. 

  • Bruce Love

    The fusion centers’ mission isn’t limited to combating terrorism but is quite open ended and lacks public accountability and checks and balances (“all crimes”, “all hazards”).   Under such a broad umbrella fusion centers have been revealed to gather intelligence about such things as Ron Paul campaign rallies, Code Pink demonstrations, people observed using binoculars in L.A., and people “looking middle-eastern” near a football game — all based on “no specific threat but you never know”.

    Once gathered, the controls on where that information goes — what parts of the government and private sector gain access to it — are poor, thanks to the ad hoc multi-jurisdictional and private party organizational structure.   Citizens lack any right to discover and correct or challenge information about themselves or its uses or abuses.

    The effectiveness of these expenditures and practices in actually combating terrorism is nowhere proved.

    To be sure, law enforcement information sharing is important.  To assume, though, that these fusion centers with their known dubious practices are an appropriate model is purely an act of faith.   Berkeley tax payers are funding that act of faith.    It’s entirely appropriate that they demand greater accountability about what they’re paying for.

  • lauram

     That is not quite accurate.

    The farce was all POLITICS and no SUNSHINE

  • AnthonySanchez

    I don’t follow. That was the motion that was voted on.

  • Anthony provided the amendments and there’s now a link in the story. 

    Here they are: http://www.berkeleyside.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/MutualAidProposal.pdf

  • Mike Stevens

    You are entitled to your opinion.  I believe that most of these officers who put themselves in harms way deserve our respect.  Sure, there are some bad apples (who deserve to be removed from their position of trust) but for the most part I believe there are some sound and solid cops are there.  To believe and even suggest that law abiding citizens are being shot daily by cops is absurd.

  • No. The increasing “militarization” of the police is in response to the increasing militarization of the anarchist wings of protest groups like Occupy Oakland.

    If what’s going on in Europe is any example, these protest groups are only going to keep getting more and more violent and destructive, and the Police need to be trained and equipped to respond appropriately to protect public and private property.

  • Bruce Love

    The increasing “militarization” of the police long predates Occupy Oakland.  It predates 9/11[*] but took a sharp upswing in the years following 9/11.   The term refers in part to such things as broad, increased surveillance and intelligence sharing among the police, federal law enforcement, federal intelligence services, military and military intelligence services, and selected private sector partners  — often in ways that appear to subjugate civil checks and balances.  It additionally refers to increasing weaponization, increasing surveillance capabilities, and training in military combat techniques at all levels of jurisdiction, including cross-training exercises in preparation for any and every event perceived as having the potential to precipitate large scale civil unrest.   It also, most importantly, refers to a collapse in checks-and-balances controls on these expansive government capabilities.  

    The rationales given by advocates for this trend aren’t limited to fears about anarchist groups or  terrorism but include events such as natural disasters, public health crises, prolonged severe disruptions of commerce, and so forth.   While few (there are some, but not many) deny the importance of military training, cross-jurisdictional training, disaster planning and so forth — the specific implementations of those objectives have fallen under sharp criticism from a lot of well informed circles.  Unfortunately this trickles down to the “street” as a vague “down with militarizing the police”.   Still, if you think that Berkeley is guilty of wasting obscene sums of money padding the nests of government employees and trading partners, you might actually want to cast that same critical eye on the spectrum of phenomena broadly referred to as the “militarization of the police”.   On the other hand if you think you want to invest in closely held government suppliers then the militarization of the police is a gift that won’t stop giving — for now.

    That said, in my view framing the issue as militarization is too vague and yet too alarmist  to be taken seriously, not least because it provokes misleading responses like yours, here.   The legitimate objectives need to be preserved and the faulty implementations corrected. The issues deserve serious and well educated attention, not ideological shooting from the hip.  The issues also necessitate legal and political fights.   And if those fail ….  If the emerging society of anarchists see themselves as becoming a kind of backstop against the failure of those political efforts, on that narrow claim they are not fully out to lunch if history is any indication.

    O’Conner is not completely crazy to draw a line from this “militarization” thing to some specific police shootings.   “Militarization” does not, unfortunately, imply military-style discipline, controls, and indemnifications as the City and people of Oakland have been learning through some painful legal problems.

    re: “If what’s going on in Europe is any example, [….]”

    Current events in Europe make a pretty interesting case.   Here’s the New York Times:

     “By many indicators, Greece is devolving into something unprecedented in modern Western experience. A quarter of all Greek companies have gone out of business since 2009, and half of all small businesses in the country say they are unable to meet payroll. The suicide rate  increased by 40 percent in the first half of 2011. A barter economy has sprung up, as people try to work around a broken financial system. Nearly half the population under 25 is unemployed. Last September, organizers of a government-sponsored seminar on emigrating to Australia, an event that drew 42 people a year earlier, were overwhelmed when 12,000 people signed up. Greek bankers told me that people had taken about one-third of their money out of their accounts; many, it seems, were keeping what  savings they had under their beds or buried in their backyards. One banker, part of whose job these days is persuading people to keep their money in the bank, said to me, “Who would trust a Greek bank?”


    It’s left as an exercise to the reader who anticipates Greek-style economic problems in the US to contemplate if spending lots of money buying the police fancy toys and teaching them urban combat games is really the way to go, to avoid Greek-style civil unrest problems.

  • EBGuy

    Anarchists are the least of our problems if Europe is any indication.  The firefighters went a bit crazy in Belgium when they tried to raise the retirement age.  Imagine what would happen here if the city tried to tackle public safety pensions and benefits (not mention worker’s comp and salaries).

  • Fixthestreets

    Thanks Lance.

    I read Jesse’s amendments.  I’m sure they’ll be given their due, but I hope the SAR one is ultimately rejected.  Limiting SAR reports to those charged with a crime doesn’t seem likely to have much of an effect — the 9/11 attackers weren’t charged with a crime, for example.  Also, I wonder why Arreguin thinks he needs to require a BPD captain to review SAR filings.  Is a lieutenant (current practice) really not enough?  How do we reconcile the apparent lack of confidence in BPD officers below captain with his statement that we have “one of the best” departments in the area?

    For the others, I’d like to hear what the police professionals have to say.

    In general I am not crazy about attempts to relegislate federal/state law at the city level. 

    The demand for additional incident reporting is not a bad thing.  In that vein, I would still very much like to know what the total cost was for dealing with Occupy Berkeley — the extra police effort, the cleanup, the park restoration.  Jesse and Kriss led the council to welcome the expansion of the camp and I’d like to know how much those decisions cost our community.  Anthony, you must know by now, no?

  • I’m glad these were passed, but I’m also wondering if in the future Berkeleyside could also post how each council member voted.

    When an issue is important enough to make the news, I do find myself wondering how my council member voted.

  • AnthonySanchez

    The City Manager hasn’t provided that information, but if requested, would take some staff time to compile.

    Also, I don’t know what you mean by “led the council to welcome the expansion of the camp.” The Council as a whole equally “welcomed” the initial camp. Yes, our office was one of the nine that allowed the camp to exist without fear of crackdown, but once it grew and became overtaken by individuals who had no respect for the community, our office took responsibility and Jesse was the only person to come out with a plan to transition the encampment -which worked well in terms of no mutual aid or major violence. The entire episode provided a valuable lesson.

  • AnthonySanchez

    Also, I’m glad you read the amendments. At the least, a great thing coming from this issue is that Berkeley is taking a look at agreements that were normally passed without much review or discussion. Other Cities are taking notice as well.

  • Fixthestreets

    What’s the procedure for getting that information?  Do you call?  Do I call?

  • Fixthestreets

    Also:  I think you know exactly what I mean.  Jesse and Kriss were at the forefront of the welcome effort.   Remember the “no problem” quote in the Chron?  You’re right that the whole Council was foolish enough to endorse the thing, but all of the reporting I saw at the time credited Jesse and Kriss with the most full-throated endorsements.

    You’re right that Jesse put a plan out.  But it’s quite a leap of historical revisionism to credit him with that working out well.  The City Manager was the one who made the call — and that was not an implementation of Jesse’s plan! — in a manner that caught Jesse and other councilmemebers by surprise.  

    Here’s his quote on being surprised by the City Manager’s decision to act (again, not to implement his plan): “We have not received any official word from the city manager or the (police department) regarding the removal of the encampment,” Arreguin said. “I honestly, at this time, cannot support the removal of the camp because I don’t know the reasons why.”

    The facts as I remember them are:

    the encampment started out small
    Jesse/Kriss led the council to endorse the movement
    the encampement grew a lot, absorbing people from SF and beyond
    Jesse gave his “no problem” comment to the Chron, even as things were turning ugly.
    Things got really ugly.
    Jesse floated a tepid plan.  Not a bad plan, but not a good one.
    The City Manager stepped up and took action on her own initiative, surprising Jesse and the other council members.
    BPD got the job done.
    Berkeley taxpayers will pay for the whole stupid affair.

    I understand — you work in Jesse’s office, you believe in the vision, you’ve got to support your guy.  But really, memories aren’t THAT short around here.  

  • AnthonySanchez

    You can certainly call and make the request, but I don’t know the exact process. Typically, an individual Councilmember could make a request or the Council as a whole. Our office has a queue of requests, so I can add it, but I can’t promise a response anytime soon.

  • AnthonySanchez

    That’s fine if you feel more comfortable lapping more of the blame on specific people, who you may or may not be fond of on Council. Fact is, other members on council were just as vocal but not as visible in terms of press quotes.

    The “no problem” quote was taken out of context. I was there during the interview and that quote was cherry picked from qualifying comments. Heck, I studied journalism, so you can’t blame a reporter who hinges on words that fit their pre-charted narrative or makes it snazzier. But it certainly didn’t convey what was actually said.

    In terms of the plan, we were in communication with staff before we submitted our ideals, many of which they immediately implemented. Many specific ideas were discussed as opposed to being fully spelled out in a general plan but were nonetheless utilized.

    Regarding the “surprise” quotes, the Manager wisely closed off certain details to us before things went down to protect the operation (we wanted to be updated before any major action, but in hindsight, it wasn’t possible). A councilmember is not an executive and therefore cannot “make the call,” but I can assure you our office was keenly involved in the week leading up to transitioning the encampment.

    I’d venture we don’t agree on a lot of things. And that’s fine, too. I am not disputing your positions on Mutual Aid or Occupy, etc. You can continue to disagree with us (if, in fact, you do), but I do offer additional information to give you a more complete picture of things that the press simply can’t do (representation is by its very nature a truncated truth, omitting information for the sake of efficiency).

  • Fixthestreets


    Thanks for your continued willingness to engage.  

    You and Jesse have done some good things for the District — the work on the confusing parking signs by TJs is a recent example. 

    And yet there are some things I desperately wish you’d change.  One is the tendancy to become the story, as in this case.  Notice how Bside used a picture of Jesse for this article and that the Chron also ran with the same headshot?  It makes no sense at all given the content, which is that the agreements go forward.  The amendments did not pass and are now just a request for a report.  And yet the story of Jesse-at-the-barricades appears front and center, once again.

    Kriss’ joke that Jesse’s time on this issue merits a 5x pay bump is telling here:  he spent a lot of time and there’s not a lot to show for it in the end.   What else might he have accomplished in all of that time?  Even if he had been (more) successful, I definitely do not think these were the most important things to work on.

    Has Jesse done anything on the problem of crumbling streets in Berkeley?
    Does he have any proposals to address the financial problems from the city’s pension overhang?

    I would love to read a story about Jesse being deeply involved in revitalizing downtown.  Measure R, which he opposed, passed.  With Downtown being in his district, he’s got to stay engaged though, so I’d very much like to know what he’s doing in that area. 

  • AnthonySanchez

    I am always happy to engage -I feel its important to add to the discussion, if not to help clarify and answer questions.

    In terms of Jesse being the focus of the article -and mind my bias- I feel it is warranted since the amendments were a big focus of the Council discussion (you can watch the video online). The amendments, despite the impression that they were “merely” referred, were greeted with support by pretty much the entire council. The only issue was the time to review those amendments, which is why they were referred with the intention of giving better direction to staff. The thing that may make you believe this didn’t amount to much, and therefore shouldn’t be a focus of coverage, was the fact that we passed the MOU’s anyway -interestingly, Jesse’s amendments suggested to do the same thing. Since we want new direction, that can only happen with new negotiations for the next round of agreements at the end of this year, not retroactively for past due agreements. Using my journalistic mind, Jesse’s amendments are very newsworthy and are defensible as the locus of coverage since they were in fact the locus of conflict (which is what journalism tends to focus on)

    I’ve got to rush to work, so I get back to the rest of this shortly.

  • AnthonySanchez

    In terms of streets -that’s an issue of finding additional resources to pave the streets. Although it may seem too little too late (because I’m with you on how bad some of the streets are -I live off Cedar), the Council committed more funds to street repair in the last budget than we have in the past decade. This predates our time on Council, but Council strangely kicked the can for a long time on street repair, doing the bare minimum and not doing pro-active maintenance -we’re now paying the price. In full disclosure, our office joined a few others in trying to divert a minute percentage from a very health roads budget to fund some important social programs. That failed, but either way, all of Council recognized that we have to dedicate (or the word invest may be better) more funds to maintaining our roads.

    As you name suggests, we need to fix the streets. And we are. Even with a lot more money, however, there is still an issue of bandwidth and the queue for various street repair projects is long. We’re working on it, but this is a multi-year long project before we can get caught up on having adequately maintained streets.

    In terms of other budgetary issues (which  is arguably the most important issue, but far from being a visible issue), our office is working with concerned groups and discuss this more than we’d give ourselves credit for. The bottomline is that budget issues are really only salient from a press standpoint once a year. When the time comes, look for Jesse to take the leadership we need on these important issues.

    For the Downtown Plan, that’s another issue that is developing but is not at the forefront of public attention, though it will be coming back soon. In fact, our office is planning a townhall soon to communicate developments and to get get community feedback. Although we oppose Measure R, the reason are more nuanced than a simple glance would suggest and we’re in fact in favor making Downtown vibrant. The devil is always in the details, but we’re committed this time around to making sure adequate measures are included in the plan to ensure we get the best possible deal in terms of public benefits and having policies that invite the type of activtiy and development we want in Downtown. I encourage you to attend once the date is set.

    I’m always happy to discuss things and answer questions, so let me know if you’d like to meet sometime or email me. I’m a very open person as much as my professional position permits me.

  • Does it predate the pointless rioting in the streets of Europe?
    Does it predate the “Battle in Seattle?”
    I thought not, Tom.

  • You are quite a bad troll, you know.

  • From what I read in the Oakland Tribune the only council member who voted against it was Kriss Worthington. Max Anderson was quoted as saying some rather ridiculous things to say against the agreement that he voted in favor of, given the consistently high level of criminal activity in his district.

    “Because of the political environment this country initiated on 9/11, there is a sense the country should live in fear and we should sacrifice civil liberties for safety,” Anderson said. “That hasn’t worked out so well for any country I know of. Nobody wants to see a country firing on its own citizens. My voice remains strong about having civilian control over the quasi-military arming of the police.”

  • Angry firefighters squirting an office with hoses is small potatoes compared to the destruction done by anarchists in the increasingly routine riots in Europe.


  • AnthonySanchez

    If it helps clarify anything, the agreements were going to be accepted either without qualification or with Jesse’s amendments due to the fact that we cannot re-negotiate retroactively. The direction that Council is having staff explore is to negotiate certain protections and policy changes going forward into next year’s (this years) agreements. The requests were prospective.

  • AnthonySanchez

    Additional clarification, if it helps, the types of crimes committed in Mr. Anderson’s district are, by and large, not the type of reporting to the federal government that we’re concerned about and are largely unrelated. The reporting that drew concern had to do with “suspicious activity involving no committed crime,” such as photographing buildings, etc. Beneficial reporting about actual crimes, such as burglaries or a string of license plate thefts that help other cities identify patterns would be unaffected.