Berkeley adopts anti-bias policing policy, commits to collecting data to tackle alleged racial profiling

Police car patrolling at night. Photo: Emilie Raguso

Berkeley Police officers patrolling at night: a new policing policy adopted unanimously by the City Council aims to address alleged racial profiling when police make stops. Photo: Emilie Raguso

The Berkeley City Council on Tuesday adopted an anti-bias policing policy with a view to eradicating, or at least reducing, alleged cases of racial profiling by the city’s police. The policy will see the city begin to collect data on police stops to analyze whether incidents of profiling are happening.

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

The “Fair and Impartial Policing Policy” has been a year in the making, and was crafted by a committee that included representatives from the Berkeley Police Department working in collaboration with the Police Review Commission, the Peace and Justice Commission, the Coalition for a Safe Berkeley, and the East Bay ACLU.

Councilman Jesse Arreguín brought the recommendation to the Council in order, he said, to help implement state law which prohibits racial profiling by law enforcement officers.

“Even in Berkeley which has an excellent and well-trained police force, and a city with a long
history of progressive values, racial profiling has occurred throughout our city’s history,” the supporting city document states.

Police training on the policy has already begun and is expected to be complete within four months.

Several speakers at the meeting said they had witnessed, or been subject to, racial profiling by Berkeley Police.

Local resident Charles Brown, who said he works at the Berkeley Flea Market among other things, described witnessing an African American man being arrested at the market for “talking too loud.”

Reference was made to a recent video of a police stop of a group of young people, some of whom were former UC Berkeley students, which sparked accusations of racial profiling by BPD officers.

“Too many of our young black and brown youth are stopped for jaywalking, or ‘walking or driving while black,'” said Barbara White,  vice-president of the Berkeley NAACP. “If we continue to racially profile young people they will be fearful of coming to Berkeley.” She added: “Officers not doing their job should be accountable.”

Berkeley NAACP President Mansour Id-Deen urged the Council to adopt the policy, saying 34 cities in California had already implemented data collection.

The move comes on the heels of a town hall meeting organized by the Berkeley NAACP last month to discuss racial profiling, which was attended by more than 100 members of the community.

Councilman Max Anderson said he wished more of his colleagues on the Council had been at the meeting to hear testimony from so many about biased policing. “Some people don’t see it as their problem,” he said. Anderson said the new policy was an opportunity for training and upgrading skills in the city and “ensuring all citizens are treated in a fair and impartial way.”

Councilman Arreguín stressed how important it would be to have detailed police stop data so as to be able to determine whether the policy was making a difference.

“This is critical in maintaining  the Berkeley police force’s reputation as progressive,” he said.

Berkeley City Manager Christine Daniel will request the police department put the policy — which was voted in unanimously and is known as General Order B4 — into effect within four months.

Both she and Berkeley Police Chief Michael Meehan will report back to the Council after the summer recess on the status of relevant training for police officers, as well as the implementation of the policy. The Council agreed they would ideally like to see annual reporting of stop and search data.

Read the full details of the Fair and Impartial Policing Policy.

Community comes out for NAACP forum on alleged racial profiling by police in Berkeley (05.12.14)
Berkeley police stop video sparks racial controversy (05.09.14)
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

    Dear BPD, you are welcome to profile in my neighborhood.

  • Completely_Serious

    “Even in Berkeley which has an excellent and well-trained police force, and a city with a long

    history of progressive values, racial profiling has occurred throughout our city’s history,” the supporting city document states.

    Uh, if they don’t collect such data, how do they know?

    And how are the cops supposed to record the “race” of someone? I thought race was a self-identification characteristic. I may look “white” but I have a very strong Hispanic bloodline. Will the cops ask me my race? Will my race be recorded based on an officer’s judgment? How will the cops record there race of someone with mixed ancestry? “Mostly black.” “Looks pretty white to me.” “Might be Latina.”

    Since everything the Council does seems to have surprising unintended consequences, should we expect fewer stops of “minorities” or more stops of middle aged white people?

    Will any potholes be filled by this policy? Will any pensions or retiree health plans be funded by this policy? Will any mustaches be groomed?

  • Bill N

    I will be interested in what the data shows and any correlation with crime rates and arrests in different beats.

  • db

    Article has a nice photo of cops in front of the donut shop…very progressive. Can’t imagine why anyone thinks profiling exists.

  • bgal4

    A similar charge against BPD occurred some years ago resulting in similar training and data collection. The city mandates all traffic stops be recorded for nearly 2 decades. That data has NOT been analyzed, so there is NO finding supporting the expansion of reporting to include pedestrian stops and passengers during traffic stops. The current retraining is a duplication of training all officers receive when hired.

    The more important data analysis should be the number of illegal weapons confiscated in traffic stops. But that is not of interest to the NAACP.

  • guest

    When will BPD stop targeting parents dropping off their kids at school?

  • bgal4

    I know the tenants on Dana who witnessed the “jaywalking” incident referred to the NAACP leadership. The UCB students asked the tenants to lie to the police claiming they witnessed brutality. There was no police misconduct, just the abusive ranting of drunk and bigoted young people looking to blame the cops for everything they are angry about.

  • DisGuested

    The one thing we know for sure is that the Flak Catchers have been thoroughly Mau-Mau’d.

  • Berkeley City Council = Idiots

    So now the police have to jump through more hoops to address alleged “systemic discrimination” that there is absolutely zero proof of?

    If the abuse is so rampant and obvious, why can’t the NAACP provide any hard evidence showing what they claim?

    Why is the City Council further hampering our police force by forcing rules upon them to address something that there is no proof is occurring in the first place?

  • guest

    And then there is this; we share a city limit with Oakland which has paid millions of dollars in judgments and settlements because of the proven misconduct of its police officers and whose police department is virtually or actually under the control of the feds. Yet the attorneys who have brought and won these cases against Oakland have taken no such actions in Berkeley? How can that be the case if BPD is violating the constitution?

  • guest

    And in a related development, the council voted unanimously to have the foxes guard the chickens.

  • Realist

    It’s not racial profiling…it’s CRIMINAL profiling…and they are damn good at it….who really thinks they want to use their time nonspecifically ? …They do NOT employ mere guesswork.

  • guest

    Since we have thousands of students with no BUSD bus service every school should have sufficient white zones for drop offs and pick ups. As it is now most schools have only a few white zone spaces and zero driveways and zero parking lots. This is not enough space to allow hundreds of kids to get to and from school. The City should convert more street parking spots in front of schools into white zones to meet the needs of parents trying to educate their kids, even if this means a reduction in street parking for neighbors. Then people won’t have to double park and BPD can instead focus on serious crime.

  • guest

    I agree, guest. There simply isn’t enough drop off spots for parents.

  • guest

    This particular PC BS is new which sorta negates your point, n’est-ce pas?

  • End BUSD Busing

    This wouldn’t be a problem if BUSD would let kids walk to their neighborhood schools instead of using a busing system to force parents to drive their kids across town.

  • Punda

    Thanks to people with attitudes like yours for turning Berkeley into a hollow shell of its former self, where giant corporations like Whole Foods have replaced local fare like the Former Berkeley Co-op and the new rejuvenated “Theater District” seems to have left out staples like The Black Repertory Theater, La Pena and Ahkanaz. The slogan “Come for the Culture and stay for the food” is slightly misleading in that despite the proliferation of Ethiopian restaurants in Berkeley, there is not one in the new downtown.Inviting the BPD to profile in your neighborhood even jokingly is the sort of thing one would expect from some Orinda Tea Party Person.

  • guest

    It is a new expansion of a previously existing policy, no?

    (From the article:) “Currently, Berkeley Police record data about vehicle stops, but data
    about other types of contacts — including pedestrians and bicyclists —
    is not collected unless there is an arrest.”

  • guest

    Inviting any PD to profile in your neighborhood is just fine as long as the neighborhood isn’t in the US.

  • New Berkeleyans

    We’re here! We like nice things (and don’t feel guilty about it)! Get used to it!

  • guest

    Why ‘fix’ something based on complaints whose validity is not established? What happened to ‘if it ain’t broke…’?

  • Louis Mayer

    I agree with many of the other comments that the new training requirement is without substantiation. The city has a civilian Police Review Commission, the police department has an Internal Affairs unit and the state has a civil court system. If there are complaints or abuses, let the victims come forward, tell their story and then the police department can make discipline and procedure changes. In this case, the city council has tarnished the police department by simply assuming there is misconduct and ordering new training to stop it.

    As for the issue of now analyzing pedestrian contacts, it’s similar to what scores of other agencies have been doing for the past 10 years, with no success. Specifically, you would need to gather much more information from each citizen encounter, either vehicle stops or pedestrian contacts, in order to truly prove bias. So far, not a single agency who’s collected the data has been able to make a definitive case of bias, departmental or individual, even when the data shows disproportionate representation in the data.

    There are several flaws in only collecting the race of the person contacted. For vehicle stops, a large percentage are performed without the officer even seeing the driver or knowing what race they might be. Another substantial number of stops are made precisely because of the person’s race or other description, because it’s made in connection with an incident. Both of these stops would have to be excluded from the analysis. Another factor clouds the contact analysis—the racial distribution of the motoring (or even walking) public within a jurisdiction cannot be proven to be the same as the jurisdiction itself. That makes it impossible to use Berkeley’s racial composition to prove bias with the results of the contact data. To the analysis to be accurate, you would compare contact distribution with driver/pedestrian distribution.

    For pedestrian contacts, you would have to collect data on the reason for the contact in order to properly analyze the data. There is simply no history of police officers jumping out of police cars and stopping pedestrians for absolutely no reason. So, what’s behind each stop?

    I would also take a step back and look at how Berkeley’s police policies and training are now being for formulated. It seems completely backwards. A YouTube video is posted, some anonymous “anecdotal” incidents surface, and suddenly the city council is writing law enforcement policy. My impression is that when authentic problems arise, they are discovered by the police department, who recognizes the issues, and takes corrective actions on its own, not the city council.

    Lastly, in connection with my previous point, where is Chief Meehan in all this? I’ve not read a single word from him on the issue of bias or racial profiling. If there is misconduct, why hasn’t the chief discovered and confirmed it, disciplined officers and written new policies? If there isn’t any bias problem, why didn’t he speak up and let the city council know there’s not a problem? He’s the city’s designated law enforcement expert, to whom we turn for information, guidance and action. I haven’t heard any of that from him on this topic. His lack of leadership on this issue put the question squarely on the shoulders of the city council, and look at the solution we received.

  • Punda

    Am I to understand that to mean that the Tea Party People are here and they brought their values with them? (BTW an overpriced faux natural food store and a weird downtown “French” baguette joint does not equal “nice things”)

  • gues

    They’re going to study the validity; that’s the point. They have data on non-arrest vehicle stops, but don’t have data on non-arrest pedestrian stops.

    There was an incident with pedestrians, and accusations of racism/profiling were made. It’s quite possible the accusations were without merit; I don’t know, I wasn’t there.

    But it raised the question of discriminatory treatment, and we can’t say anything with certainty about non-arrest pedestrian incidents vis-a-vis discrimination; we haven’t collected that data.

    So the city council is saying we should collect that data. Why is that unreasonable?

  • guest

    Dictionary definition of ‘Loop’: “See Loop”.

  • guest

    Mine too!

    Profiling is an incredibly reasonable tool. For example, an old Chinese lady is far less likely to commit a crime than a young white male, so officers should pay more attention to the latter if they see him walking around at night. Everyone can agree with this.

    If you are against profiling, are you arguing that all races, genders, and age groups commit crimes at exactly the same rates?