Community comes out for NAACP forum on alleged racial profiling by police in Berkeley

The father of Kayla Moore, who died in police custody last year, was one of many community members to attend a forum May 10 about perceived racial profiling by the Berkeley Police Department. Photo: Emilie Raguso

The father of Kayla Moore, who died in police custody last year, was one of many community members to attend a forum Saturday, May 10, about perceived racial profiling by the Berkeley Police Department. Photo: Emilie Raguso

More than 100 community members turned out to the Berkeley Public Library over the weekend to share or hear stories about what they believe is on-going racial profiling and harassment of minorities in Berkeley by local police officers.

The Berkeley NAACP organized the standing-room-only event, entitled “Berkeley Police – Power & Abuse,” at the south branch of the library Saturday afternoon.

Local residents, and representatives from the Berkeley NAACP and the Berkeley/North East Bay Chapter of the ACLU, took turns describing experiences they have had, or heard about, with the Berkeley Police Department. (Police were not invited to attend the session, Police Chief Michael Meehan said last week.)

A member of Berkeley’s Peace & Justice Commission, George Lippman, also informed attendees about a proposal approved in March by the Police Review Commission under which officers would report demographic data for police stops in a format that would be available for public review. That recommendation would allow the community to assess who is getting stopped and, according to advocates, discourage officers from paying unfair attention to any particular group. 

Currently, Berkeley Police record data about vehicle stops, but data about other types of contacts — such as stops of pedestrians and bicyclists — is not collected unless there is an arrest.

According to Elliot Halpern of the ACLU, the Berkeley Police Department has “committed to move it forward,” but has not provided a timeline for adopting the new policy.

Mansour Id-Deen (left) and Elliott Halpern said they are concerned about reports of alleged racial profiling in Berkeley. Photo: Emilie Raguso

Mansour Id-Deen (left) and Elliot Halpern said they are concerned about reports of alleged racial profiling in Berkeley. Photo: Emilie Raguso

Councilman Jesse Arreguín said Saturday at the forum that he plans to bring up that proposal before the Berkeley City Council on June 3 to push the plan forward. Council members Max Anderson and Kriss Worthington, as well as Alameda County Supervisor Keith Carson, also were in attendance for parts of Saturday’s forum.

Berkeley Police spokeswoman Officer Jennifer Coats said Monday that proposal, for Fair and Impartial Policing, actually came from within the Police Department, and had been making the rounds to various advisory groups within the city, including the Police Review Commission, the NAACP and the ACLU. She said it’s currently being reviewed by several Berkeley police associations, and that it’s in the final stages prior to adoption. She said, however, that she did not know exactly when it would be put in place. Coats said some officers have already received training in the new system, however.

Coats also said that the Berkeley Police Department takes complaints filed very seriously, whether those complaints are made via Internal Affairs or the Police Review Commission.

“We expect our officers to treat everybody with dignity and respect, and be professional, which we believe our officers do,” Coats said.

Mansour Id-Deen, Berkeley NAACP president, said the goal of Saturday’s event was to continue collecting stories of concern from the community, and to come up with some potential solutions to turn over to the police department.

“It appears that, in some ways, we have two Berkeleys,” he told attendees Saturday. “We have one group of people in Berkeley that feel the weight of racial profiling and discrimination, and we have another group, where it’s not happening to them, and they don’t understand what we are talking about.”

Throughout the 3-hour session, approximately a dozen anecdotes were shared about stops or police interactions speakers said they felt were unfair, inappropriate and race-related.

Halpern, of the ACLU, said the organization had also received “sworn testimony from a city official of at least 20 vehicle stops of people of color without probable cause.”

Attendees listened closely to testimony Saturday about alleged racial profiling in Berkeley. Photo: Emilie Raguso

Attendees listened closely to testimony Saturday about alleged racial profiling in Berkeley. Photo: Emilie Raguso

Individual anecdotes ranged from descriptions of car stops by officers where people said there had been no legitimate reason for the stop and that they ultimately had been released without penalty; to stories about the repeated stops of non-criminal minority community members for no apparent reason other than race; to more serious allegations, including a home search one Hispanic family felt was unfair — and reportedly involved the questioning of a young child by several officers; and the in-custody death last year of Kayla Moore, a black transgender woman.

Several in attendance also said they had come to the meeting after seeing a video taken about a week ago when police stopped a small group of black friends alleged to have nearly caused a traffic accident due to jaywalking. Some of the individuals who were stopped said they believe they were targeted because of their race; police have disputed that claim, and said that it was a “dangerous pedestrian violation” that caught their attention.

A woman who was arrested on suspicion of obstruction during that incident, LaTasha Pollard, said she had been traumatized by the struggle that ensued when police took her into custody.

“One of the officers physically attacked me, slammed me on the ground,” she said. “I know how to follow rules but none of that mattered that night.… It’s not only one community’s struggle, it’s all of our struggle. We are all fighting against it.”

One Berkeley resident — who asked not to be identified because she works in the local schools and feared reprisal — said she attended the meeting on behalf of a “group of young men who said they didn’t want to come because they were concerned that police would see their faces in the audience and target them in the community.” But she said they told her “they are stopped by the police when they are walking. They are harassed. And we do need to hear them.”

Family members of two young men who were arrested in March said they did not believe police conduct was appropriate following that arrest. Photo: Emilie Raguso

Relatives of two young men arrested in March said they did not believe police conduct was appropriate following that arrest. Photo: Emilie Raguso

Family members of two young men who were arrested in March, after the robbery of a middle school boy in West Berkeley, said they did not feel they had been treated fairly by police. The mother of the two said her younger son who was arrested had been taken out of school by police without notice, and that she hadn’t been allowed to see him in juvenile hall.

A cousin of the two said police had come to the family home with a warrant that appeared to be missing key information, and that officers had conducted a search of the home that the family felt was inappropriate. During the search, the cousin said, four officers took a 6-year-old boy into a room without his parents and “interrogated him for 30 minutes.”

“They are here for protecting us, but I feel that they’re here to harass,” the mother said of police, adding that her young boy who had been questioned is now “nervous” and “scared” when he sees officers. “We’ve been living for 22 years in Berkeley. We never had a bad experience. But, for the last two years, it’s been really affecting us a lot how they are treating us. They been treating us like criminals.”

Attendees also said they are concerned about a school system that does not seem to be able to provide the necessary services to help the community’s children succeed, and the pressure caused by increasing gentrification. One asked for better conflict resolution training for Berkeley officers, and several said they are worried about a current proposal to study the ramifications of arming Berkeley Police with Tasers.

Barbara White, Berkeley NAACP vice president, said the organization is absolutely opposed to Tasers in Berkeley. She said she has serious misgivings about the use of the weapon on minorities, as well as health risks that are associated with stun gun shocks, particularly in relation to unknown medical histories.

“The Tasing just becomes another way of basically violating black and brown people for the most part by torturing them by Tasing,” she said. “It’s a no, no. We’re opposing Tasers.”

Carl Butler, an extended member of the Moore family — which has filed a lawsuit against the city in connection with Kayla Moore’s in-custody death last year — said he had become very troubled about the Berkeley Police Department in the aftermath of that incident. He called for the replacement of Berkeley Police Chief Michael Meehan, as well as the “higher echelon” of city administrators, and said major changes are in order.

“Racial profiling, gender profiling, gay rights being violated, human rights in general being violated…something needs to be done,” he said. “It’s hard not to do something when you’re seeing so much pain in one room that various families have felt at the hands of the police.”

[Correction: It was a member of Berkeley’s Peace & Justice Commission, George Lippman, who described a proposal for new data collection standards by the Berkeley Police Department on Saturday. Those standards would allow for improved public review and analysis of data for police stops, Lippman said Monday. The article has been corrected to reflect these points. The number of attendees also was corrected to reflect sign-in sheet information received Monday.]

Related:
Berkeley Police stop sparks racial controversy (05.29.14)
Teen punched during robbery by Berkeley gang members (03.31.14)
NAACP raises issues of race discrimination in Berkeley (12.11.13)
Berkeley to investigate claims of unfair employment (09.18.13)

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  • guest

    Actually, andrea, although crime rates are higher for poor people (duh), crime rates don’t rise during recessions or depressions, when the unemployment rate rises. Further, violent crime among young African Americans is massively disproportionate even when correcting for poverty. Sadly, the same thing goes for academic achievement. Police can be thugs and poverty does indeed breed crime, but police brutality is not the underlying root problem here. Nor is race, unless you are a racist that thinks that African Americans are someone intrinsically prone to crime. Obviously, they are not. However, hundreds of years of racism has lead to problems that can’t be solved by eliminating of racism in the BPD. Indeed, it is the same silliness that has lead many activists to assume that poor academic achievement among African Americans in the Berkeley schools is due to racist educators. Their are indeed two Berkeleys, but it isn’t because of racist cops and teachers,

  • Yawn

    Any verifiable evidence of your attacks on BPD? Any proof at all?

    No? Didn’t think so.

  • Guest

    Andrea Prichett yesterday: “The article needs correction. The police do not currently collect
    information on the race or ethnicity of the people they stop for traffic
    infractions. Bla bla bla bla bla.

    Andrea Prichett today: “Oh yeah actually that was completely wrong and I’ve had information disproving it for more than a year. Whoops. BPD still sucks cops are the worst.

    Copwatch in a nutshell.

  • Guest

    John Freeman take note: it was Copwatch (in the person of AP) who was dissembling. And this rambling excuse from AP is a prevarication.

  • guest

    I think that you will find that crime rates are proportional to rates of poverty.

    Instead of just thinking something, and attacking the police based on it, why not try to base your theories in data and evidence?

    Are crime rates proportional with poverty? Are crime rates proportional with poverty at the same level in all groups? The data is out there if you want to look for it.

  • guest

    “crime rates are proportional to rates of poverty.”

    In the 1960s, the United States poverty rate was cut in half, but the crime rate doubled.
    In the 1980s and 1990s, the poverty rate stagnated, but the crime rate went down by almost one-third.

    If you believe that crime rates are proportional to rates of poverty, look at the graphs at
    http://www.data360.org/graph_group.aspx?Graph_Group_Id=154
    http://mojobison.blogspot.com/2010/09/carpe-diem-us-poverty-rate-1959-to-2009.html
    and you will see that you are wrong.

  • John Freeman

    Gee. Today’s “correction” hardly redeems BPD on this issue but it does explain how BPD is able to say they are collecting data even while they are stonewalling gathering statistics. What’s refreshing here is that Pritchett corrected her mistake and is offering an honest conversation — more than I’ve seen you lot do.

  • John Freeman

    You are looking at whole population crime rates but ignoring the more relevant distribution of criminality among richer and poorer sub-populations.

  • John Freeman

    I hear this a lot in communities of color and among lefties and I’ve come to think this is a fairly terrible (though highly popular) idea:

    then address the unemployment rate as well.

    For one thing, the presence of “jobs” is by no means the absence of poverty. On the contrary, diminishing real wages combined with eroding social welfare programs can lead to lots of “jobs” and a materially worse situation at the same time.

    For another, every indication seems to be that the days of hefty, real economic growth are gone and they aren’t coming back short of a major catastrophe like another world war. Anything that, in this context, suddenly creates lots of “jobs” is necessarily a perversion of the common sense, wholesome notion of a “job”.

    None of that is enough, though, to prevent a populist cry for “jobs” from being used to make things even worse, particularly by tying “jobs” programs to welfare reduction and expansion of the disciplinary state.

    My suggestion is that the cry should be for a reduction in poverty, not jobs, and that the role of innovation here should be less about “job creation” and more about the material elimination of poverty in an economy so productive and plentiful that there’s a constant shortage of jobs from here on out.

  • Guest

    “John Freeman” yesterday: “It seems pretty significant if BPD has dissembled to Berkeleyside on this issue.

    “John Freeman” today: “Just because BPD wasn’t lying doesn’t mean they’re not lying!

    “John Freeman” in a nutshell.

  • guest

    My suggestion is that the cry should be for a reduction in poverty, not
    jobs, and that the role of innovation here should be less about “job
    creation” and more about the material elimination of poverty in an
    economy so productive and plentiful that there’s a constant shortage of
    jobs from here on out.

    In other words you want to use force to take money from the hardest working, most productive members of society to pay for the lifestyles of low-productive members so you don’t have to get a job and do work in exchange for money or goods.

  • guest

    If you believe that they buck the trend, why not find and share evidence of your hypothesis?

  • John Freeman

    Apparently the police have collect incomplete data, done nothing with it, delayed presenting what they did collect for an absurdly long time, presented only a tiny amount of what they collected when they finally presented anything at all, and provided only the raw data and only in a useless format.

    The police mislead Berkeleyside.

  • face reality, both of you

    John Freeman, please provide details as to how you would bring about the material elimination of poverty without the creation of any new jobs at all. Include the projected costs over the next 20 years in whole dollars, and indicate where the money would come from.

    guest, please explain why you do not consider people busting their asses 60 hours a week cleaning toilets, caring for children or the elderly, preparing food, etc., for less than a living wage to be among the hardest working members of society, and why you think the term “low-productive” is a fitting term for them.

  • guest

    guest, please explain why you do not consider people busting their asses
    60 hours a week cleaning toilets, caring for children or the elderly,
    preparing food, etc., for less than a living wage to be among the
    hardest working members of society, and why you think the term
    “low-productive” is a fitting term for them.

    I don’t think that at all. Read Mr. “Freeman’s” comment a little more carefully. He isn’t asking for an increase in the minimum wage, he is repeating the old Occupy Wall Street talking point demand of a guaranteed living wage income regardless of employment.

  • guest

    Insults rather than trying to defend your comments?

    Not surprising in the least, coming from you.

  • guest

    Note that, as usual, John Freeman does not produce any evidence of his
    own. He just demands more evidence from people he disagrees with.

    Behavior he has continued across 4 identities now.

  • John Freeman

    No I’m not.

    he is repeating the old Occupy Wall Street talking point demand of a guaranteed living wage income regardless of employment.

  • face reality

    Thank you for your reply.

  • guest

    You may not be honest enough to admit it, but when you talk about “the material elimination of poverty” disassociated from the idea of “jobs” that is exactly what you are doing.

  • John Freeman

    This part contains a good question:

    how you would bring about the material elimination of poverty without the creation of any new jobs at all.

    Abstractly: by creating means to obtain a wholesome level of community subsistence other than through capitalist exchange.

    If such community subsistence can be partly achieved outside of capitalist exchange, that reduces the need for wages.

    If such community subsistence can be fully achieved outside of capitalist exchange, that eliminates the need for wages.

    Someone “accused” me of advocating for a Guaranteed Minimum Income, a la Milton Friedman or something. No.

    The WWII concept of victory gardens, the similar Soviet practice that helped buffer the collapse, and the contemporary urban farming movements can be read as primitive (but sometimes at least temporarily effective) steps in this direction, for example.

    In the economy we have, wages are low and relatively hard to come by. Productivity is very high. These are two sides of the same coin. It looks like it will be that way for a long time. So it makes sense to begin to examine poverty as a problem to be addressed outside the system of capitalist exchange, and thus without needing wages that aren’t coming.

    I don’t suggest that there is a whole-society blueprint for such solutions so, sorry, there is no “20 year plan” of the sort you demanded.

    I am suggesting that when confronting the specific, localized issues of actual communities in poverty, we should keep our eyes on the real need for wholesome subsistence rather than getting ahead of ourselves and assuming the problem is a deficit of wages.

    Pre-modern capitalism had this character: that wages were supplemented heavily by non-capitalist means of subsistence. Capitalist exchange and other ways of obtaining subsistence can exist side by side, if that’s your concern.

  • http://www.4wheeledlefty.com/ wheeler58

    Maybe the discussion about racial profiling and police misconduct among the ranks of BPD would stop getting old, if something was done to correct it. Then, we can all move on to something else.

    Come down here to South Berkeley, live here for a while, observe some of the happenings down here, and I’ll bet your opinion will change.

  • http://www.4wheeledlefty.com/ wheeler58

    Maybe if BPD wasn’t always trying to sweep things under the rug, maybe the PRC wouldn’t feel the need to leak anything.

  • http://www.4wheeledlefty.com/ wheeler58

    Maybe you could attend such a meeting to raise an objection to how they are describing and entitling the meeting, if it bothers you so much.

    Surely, if you’re such a fan of the BPD, you should be there to root for your team.

  • Name

    We keep having this discussion and BPD’s detractors keep not producing any evidence to back up their claims of profiling and misconduct.

  • Confused

    They resent people who live in poor neighborhoods where they are victims of crime? People who live in poor neighborhoods don’t work as hard as ???

  • Dorthy

    Of course personal experiences matter, jack, but the claims of personal experiences by an anonymous poster don’t.

  • BerkeleyCitizen

    Nothing wrong with that–it’s being implemented around the world as “guaranteed minimum income” or “basic income”. Look it up. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guaranteed_minimum_income

    While I don’t tend to agree with AP or JF on much, I can agree with them on this. It would be a great place to focus some energy, but it probably won’t happen in our lifetime in the US. Look at what we got with Health Care.

  • bgal4

    I accept your bet and double it.

  • guest

    John, I’m not sure that, outside of hunter gathering societies, you non-capitalistic solutions have ever worked very well. Actually, your Urban Gardening example is revealing, since it relies heavily on volunteer labor and rarely if ever provides a living wage for those that work in the garden. Alternatively, I suppose you could argue that Urban Gardens provide food, but rarely enough to actually feed all of the people working on the gardens, much less anyone else. But I could be wrong. Can you provide an example, in contemporary America, where Urban Gardens actually provide all the people involved with everything they need for a full life?

  • John Freeman

    This is sort of a ridiculous question in the context of what you are replying to:

    Can you provide an example, in contemporary America, where Urban Gardens
    actually provide all the people involved with everything they need for a
    full life?

    If you’re asking a technology question there are lots of resources on the net about currently practiced means of achieving high yields.

    If you’re asking for examples where non-commercial farming has had significant impact on a developed economy I suppose you could look at dacha farms in Russia.

  • BerkeleyCommonSense

    Just for curiosity’s sake, can we also get a list of the racial breakdown on who is committing crimes in Berkeley? Then we will compare the two lists. If the lists don’t match, THEN there is a problem.

  • BerkeleyCommonSense

    Because Copwatch doesn’t like being filmed. It makes them look like irrational children screaming at adults.

  • Pluto5

    I would love if we could get the data on crime by race as well. All this seems to presuppose that older Asian women commit murders and street robberies at the same rate as other groups. I’m open to that being the case, in which disproportionate stops would be a major issue. But let’s add a bit of actual analysis to this issue. Seems like a perfect thing for Berkeleyside to add to an issue like this where we read relatively unchallenged claims on.

    The proposed steps here are pretty major – replace “Berkeley Police Chief Michael Meehan, as well as the “higher echelon” of city administrators”. Before we take those steps let’s get some data on the issue.

  • guest

    I’m sorry, John but I’m afraid your proposed solutions are not particularly practical. Dacha farms were successful to the extent that people were allowed to be directly rewarded for their labor, and I’m guessing they also involved plenty of free market exchanges. And yes, there are plenty of “resources” on the web claiming high yields with for urban farming, but most of those claims are ridiculously inflated by enthusiasts who aren’t actually farmers and don’t actually have to support their families by farming. The fact that you would use substance farming, in the city no less, as an example of a practical alternative to our current system isn’t particularly encouraging. Suggesting that poor African Americans and Mexican Americans that what they really need to do to go back to the farm is a ridiculous idea.

  • Tom Dashlove

    There is an old Asian lady who steals my recyclables every week on a clockwork schedule that BPD can’t seem to crack. But I do see your point.

  • guest

    “There is an old Asian lady who steals my recyclables every week…”

    Do what we did. Tell her to leave and don’t come back. She complied with our request.

  • guest

    Let’s make sure to include the unreported crimes on the list of who is committing crimes so we get this exactly right.

  • John Freeman

    What you’ve mainly said here is that you are unable or unwilling to follow the thread of the conversation and insist on replying to words you put in my mouth.

  • Tom Dashlove

    Tried it. Did not work.

  • Tom Dashlove

    And you keep avoiding direct questions. Kinda pointless.

  • guest too

    I wish they were all so considerate.

  • guest

    Or, perhaps, that your ideas such as they are are half-baked and don’t really work when fleshed out into a system larger than a small number of individual households.

  • Compassion?what’scompassion?

    Way to go!
    Squash that little old lady’s entreprenurial instinct!
    She’s probably only doing it just to bother you anyway: it’s not like she needs the money.

  • guest

    Suuuuure, because needing the money gives you the right to break the law and invade other people’s privacy. It’s not like anyone else has any rights, like the right not to have a total stranger wander onto your property and start going through your trash.

  • guest

    Well, I think what I was doing was pointing out the the few, actual examples of alternatives to our current system that you brought up are not very practical. I’m sorry you confused that with an inability on my part to understand the depth and profundity of your points. Then again, it is also possible that your proposed solutions are, in fact, impractical.

  • Guest

    A lot of people on this thread don’t understand the difference between anecdotes, raw data and statistics. If the public is supposed to know what the Berkeley police are actually doing, first the data needs to be collected in an intelligent way, and then it needs to be analyzed to produce statistical evidence of what’s going on. The city staff should be able to do this, but if not, if the raw data is disclosed transparently someone in the public in a city full of smart people should be able to do so. At the moment it seems that usable data has not yet been disclosed and perhaps not collected–what’s described here looks more like collected anecdotes. Data is not the plural of anecdotes.

  • John Freeman

    Look, here are the words you put in my mouth:

    The fact that you would use substance farming, in the city no less, as
    an example of a practical alternative to our current system isn’t particularly encouraging.

    I never claimed that subsistence farming is a “practical alternative to our current system”. That should be freaking obvious but I’ll point it out a third time:

    This is what I actually said:

    The WWII concept of victory gardens, the similar Soviet practice that helped buffer the collapse, and the contemporary urban farming movements can be read as primitive (but sometimes at least temporarily effective) steps in this direction, for example.

    Think about the context of what I was saying. I’m advocating to not equivocate the problem of poverty with the issue of low or missing wages. They are not the same problem. As I said:

    In the economy we have, wages are low and relatively hard to come by. Productivity is very high. These are two sides of the same coin. It looks like it will be that way for a long time. So it makes sense to begin to examine poverty as a problem to be addressed outside the system of capitalist exchange, and thus without needing wages that aren’t coming.

    Of course subsistence farming is not an “alternative to the current system” because practically by definition it is far more labor intensive — which is to say less productive — than the current system.

    Rather, subsistence farming is interesting in this context for two reasons: first as an example of production organized along non-capitalist lines; second as a historic practice that (even in recent history) has helped to buffer against shocks in the capitalist system.