Berkeley City Council won’t put police oversight measure on 2018 ballot

Berkeley Police Department. Photo: Emilie Raguso

A Berkeley City Council proposal to put a police oversight charter amendment on the November ballot has run out of time to be considered this fall.

In a memo Thursday, staff said the “meet and confer” discussions between the city and police union are still underway and would not be done in time for ballot consideration. Friday was the deadline for the council to submit proposals for the ballot. Members of the public have until Sept. 8 to submit petitions.

There has been a flurry of proposals this year promoting various ideas for police oversight ballot measures. The effort began with two citizen proposals, one of which went on to receive significant discussion and work at the city’s Police Review Commission. Mayor Jesse Arreguín then came up with his own version of the PRC’s work. The mayor’s version, co-sponsored by Councilwoman Kate Harrison, is the one that’s been used during the “meet and confer” process, even as the PRC continued to work on the mayor’s plan.

In July, the Berkeley City Council voted to ask the city manager to begin discussions with police about that proposal. Council has asked the city to focus discussions on proposed changes that would lower the evidence standard the city now uses; extend the time limit to impose discipline; and give the PRC “full discretion and access to evidence to review complaints as to alleged officer misconduct.”


According to Thursday’s memo, the city has had one meeting with the Berkeley Police Association and has scheduled another. But legal requirements mean that process cannot be rushed, the city wrote.

“The parties are still early in the process,” staff wrote. “As set forth below, the parties must meet and confer in good faith and either reach an agreement or exhaust impasse procedures.”

The proposal would modify the existing discipline process, which would require an amendment to the contract — which the city just adopted July 31 after lengthy negotiations. Other parts of the mayor’s oversight proposal would also require the “meet and confer” process “as matters either directly altering, or having impacts on, the terms or conditions of employment” for Berkeley police officers.

Staff wrote that the law requires the city to meet and confer in good faith. Then, if there’s an impasse, further steps must be taken before the council could take action. Those steps include putting the matter before a “factfinding panel” within 45 days, and then holding a public hearing about the impasse. The city must then make “its last, best and final offer,” which would “involve a final version of the Police Commission Charter Amendment” that council is considering.

The city says, in certain cases, arguments can be made to speed up the process, but only if there is an “immutable deadline, in other words, the specific election was the only one at which the Charter Amendment could be considered.”

There is no evidence to suggest a future election won’t suffice to put the matter before the voters, the city wrote.

“While there is certainly Council interest in moving this ballot measure forward in 2018, the Police Review Commission Ordinance and process have been in place for more than 40 years, and there are no facts that makes the November 2018 election an immutable deadline to excuse compliance with state law.”


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