Opinion: Why we support Berkeley Measure II for police accountability

It will create an independent agency to investigate civilian complaints and ensure effective civilian oversight of police conduct

We are pleased to support Measure II, on the November ballot, to provide greater accountability to the Berkeley police.

Public safety is at the core of a thriving community, and it is vital to the administration of the city of Berkeley. The national upsurge in the movement for Black Lives and against police brutality reminds us that safety cannot be separated from the demand for justice in law enforcement. There truly cannot be peace without justice.

The City Council unanimously put Measure II, which amends the city charter to strengthen civilian oversight of the police, on the ballot before George Floyd was unjustly killed by the Minneapolis police on May 25. But today, Measure II complements other steps the council took in June and July, including improvements to police use of force policies, a 12% reduction in the police budget, and a process to create a new, transformative model of positive, equitable and community-centered safety for Berkeley.

Six years ago, in a similar moment of national crisis after the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, President Obama created the 21st Century Policing Task Force. As part of a comprehensive set of recommendations, the task force stated, “Civilian oversight of law enforcement is important in order to strengthen trust with the community.” In a democracy, the voice of the community must be heard. That is why we cherish the over 40 community boards and commissions that bring our own government closer to the people.

In 1973, Berkeley voters created one of the first police review commissions (PRC) in the country. Almost 50 years later, the structure and authority of the PRC are unchanged. It is time to update the PRC to conform with current national best practices, better reflect the values of our community, and to honor the widespread demand for police reform by creating a new Police Accountability Board. The new board would bring the following improvements:

  • An independent agency to investigate civilian complaints and ensure effective civilian oversight of police conduct.
  • A director of police accountability to provide professional oversight and investigate complaints, make independent findings, and recommend corrective action.
  • An extended deadline for people to file and for the board to review complaints, to allow adequate time for investigation of complaints and conform with other cities;
  • A standard of proof for complaints that is consistent with other cities;
  • Power to recommend discipline in cases of serious misconduct;
  • Authority to propose policy changes to ensure fair and impartial policing, address racial inequities, and protect civil liberties;
  • Ability to advise the City Council on the hiring of the chief of police with final approval remaining with the elected City Council.

Measure II results from an unprecedented collaborative process between Berkeley police, the Police Review Commission, the City Council, the PRC, and the Berkeley police association. It is broadly supported by Mayor Arreguín and the entire city council, Congresswoman Barbara Lee, State Senator Nancy Skinner, former Mayor Gus Newport, NAACP, ACLU, the Sierra Club, Healthy Black Families, the African American/Black Professionals and Community Network, The Way Christian Church, and a range of political organizations including the Alameda County Democratic Party, the Berkeley Democratic Club, Berkeley Citizens Action, the Wellstone Democratic Renewal Club, and many others.

Voting YES on Measure II will give Berkeley’s Police Accountability Board the authority and resources to thoroughly investigate misconduct allegations and, when warranted, propose discipline, and review police policies to protect civil rights and liberties and address racial and other disparities.

For a more accountable Berkeley, join us in voting “aye-aye” on Measure II.

Jesse Arreguín is Berkeley's mayor and previously represented District 4 on the Berkeley City Council. Sophie Hahn is vice-mayor and Berkeley's District 5 councilmember. Ben Bartlett represents Berkeley's District 3. Lori Droste represents Berkeley's District 8. Kate Harrison represents Berkeley's District 4. Rigel Robinson represents Berkeley's District 7. Susan Wengraf represents Berkeley's District 6. Cheryl Davila represents Berkeley's District 2.