“Without a doubt, I’m bringing you … the best there is for the city of Berkeley,” City Manager Dee Williams-Ridley told council. “I could not ask for a better individual to sit beside to lead.”
Greenwood said building community trust will be his primary focus. He has already planned a series of events coming up this year to hear concerns and priorities from all sectors of town. He is collaborating with the Police Review Commission (PRC) on an ordinance to limit government surveillance, and is getting closer to equipping officers with body-worn cameras. On May 24, he said, the PRC will hold a much-anticipated public meeting to take an in-depth look at police stop data released in 2015 that department critics said showed racial bias. And Greenwood pledged to continue to work closely with the PRC going forward.
Greenwood, who moved up through the ranks to a captain spot over his three decades at BPD, has been interim chief since September, when former Chief Michael Meehan abruptly resigned. Greenwood was born and raised in Berkeley. His parents still live in the home he grew up in, and his sister and her family live in town, too. He attended Jefferson, Franklin and King schools, and graduated from Berkeley High. He and his wife still live in Berkeley, and their sons have attended Berkeley public schools too.
“My life in Berkeley informs my work in the Berkeley Police Department, throughout the many roles through my career,” he told council. “As chief, I think I bring a uniquely local perspective to formulating strategy, policies, and engaging with our community. I am mindful of the broad range of diverse views and interests of our community, and firmly rooted in principled, constitutional policing while being cognizant of the issues and challenges facing the men and women of our department on a day-to-day basis, while they work to keep our community safe.”
Greenwood said he’s already hired 10 new officers, and promoted nine people, since he took the helm. He’s overseen large-scale community protests that drew national scrutiny. The department has been putting out more information through Nixle alerts, and recently went live on Twitter, after years of promising to do so. (Follow Chief Greenwood on Twitter, as well as the general department account.) He’s relaunched “coffee with the cops” events where community members can have informal chats with the chief and other department staff.
Greenwood said the department is also working to update its use of force policy to bring it in line with modern standards. For context, he said, BPD had 78,700 calls for service in 2016, made 3,200 arrests and issued 5,600 citations. Police recorded 32 uses of force last year, which prompted eight complaints.
“Eight complaints out of 3,200 arrests is about one complaint in every 400 arrests,” Greenwood told council. “That’s about a quarter of 1%.”
He said that doesn’t mean the department doesn’t need to update its policy, however, and promised to report back to council in September with news on that effort. And that’s not all. Greenwood said he’ll launch a new annual report on use of force to increase transparency on BPD data. Those numbers have not previously been readily available except in the somewhat obscure annual Police Review Commission report.
A handful of community members, including the local branch of the ACLU, said there should have been a broader search and a public process that would have allowed for public input into the police chief appointment. They repeatedly said they had no issue with Greenwood himself, but wished for a different selection process. No member of the public brought up a specific concern related to Greenwood’s record. Some did question the department’s approach to the homeless, and raised concerns about police militarization.
“I have no beef with the chief in this moment,” said Russell Bates, who has been a longtime critic of the department and policing in general. “In the future, who knows.” Bates said Greenwood, to date, seemed more “on the level” than the city’s process overall.
“There are a lot of people here, and there have been letters, that call into question” the process, activist and local resident Steve Martinot told council. “The issue isn’t the man. The issue is the process.”
Councilwoman Cheryl Davila, who had pulled the appointment off the consent calendar, and later abstained from the vote, said she too was displeased with the process.
“I think the public should weigh in on you being the chief,” she said. “I was hoping [it would happen] before you became chief. But, you know, if you’re going to continue, if you’re going to be chief, that’s … probably going to happen.”
City manager Williams-Ridley said she made her recommendation in support of Greenwood based on his 30 years of service to the Berkeley Police Department, as well as his last six months in the role of acting chief.
“This is not an abnormal process that we’re going through,” she said. Williams-Ridley said she picked someone she knew could unite a “very fractured, very divided” department, to stabilize it and build morale, and shepherd it through the challenges it has faced in recent years.
“It is not an easy thing to do for anyone,” she said. “When you have an exemplary record … in working with people… how far across the nation do I have to go to find someone else to surpass that amount of leadership and courage?”
Williams-Ridley described Berkeley as “a very tough city to work within,” but said she loves the challenge, and knows Greenwood does too: “He’s here, and he’s been here. He is a committed Berkeley resident born and raised. I wish I could say the same.”
In the end, the vote to appoint Greenwood was eight in favor with Davila alone abstaining.
Councilman Kriss Worthington said it’s the council’s job to set policy, and the chief’s job to implement it. He called the push for a national search and a series of town halls prior to the hire “so wrong-headed.”
“We have before us a homegrown leader who has immense experience working to build the faith and the confidence of so many people in Berkeley from so many diverse communities,” Worthington said. He noted that black, Asian and female officers at BPD have said they feel heard and respected by Greenwood, and are among Greenwood’s many supporters in the broader rank and file. “I think he will listen to all of us and take all of us seriously and give us his recommendations.”
Councilwoman Lori Droste thanked Greenwood for his keen and considerate listening ability over the years, and recalled when they once served together on a city subcommittee.
“I would email you and pepper you with questions, and you were always very responsive,” she said. “I think that’s an incredibly important quality.”
Councilman Ben Bartlett, who also was born and raised in town, recognized Greenwood as “another native son doing good by Berkeley.” Bartlett said his father, Dale, who worked deep in Berkeley politics as advisor to former Councilwoman Maudelle Shirek, always spoke highly of Greenwood. And Bartlett said BPD has regularly been responsive when his constituents have raised concerns.
“I found that your team represents you quite well, really open arms and inclusive and comforting” after traumatic situations, Bartlett said. “You guys also have been really really open to collaboration, and bringing creativity to some of the problems we’re facing.”
Mayor Jesse Arreguín said he too is happy to have a chief with such strong support from within the department, and has been impressed by Greenwood’s “thoughtful and very progressive approach” to protests that have happened in Berkeley since the presidential election, and his efforts “to make sure the right to freedom of speech is respected and, at the same time, we are holding people accountable who are committing vandalism and more violence.”
Arreguín told attendees how Greenwood had just come to a large ACLU meeting focused on Berkeley’s sanctuary city status, which may be threatened under President Trump. He said Greenwood promised the group that local officers would continue to follow the city’s policy not to enforce federal immigration detainers.
“We have a police department that’s going to honor the civil rights and civil liberties of all people whether they’re citizens of this country or not,” Arreguín said. Turning to Greenwood, he added: “You’re deeply rooted in this community’s values.”
A public swearing-in ceremony has been set for April 20. Details will be released at a later date.