BERKELEY -- A unanimous City Council voted June 17 to support policy aimed at ending biased policing in Berkeley.
"I have witnessed on numerous occasions situations when Berkeley police have stopped an African American for what appears to be a minor infraction and the person or persons end up being handcuffed, searched without receiving any citation, or going to jail," said Berkeley NAACP President Mansour Id-Deen, one of a dozen speakers who lined up to urge adoption of the policy.
"There's a perception held by African Americans that there are two, maybe three sets of laws -- different laws for different groups," he added.
After some discussion around a timetable for implementation of the policy, the council voted to have the city manager direct the police chief to implement the policy within four months.
The "Fair and Impartial Policing Policy" mandates that officers document all traffic and pedestrian stops, noting the apparent race, gender, age, cause for the stop, whether there was a search, and the outcome -- an arrest, citation or warning.
The policy was crafted over a year by a committee that included representatives from the police department, the Police Review Commission, the East Bay ACLU, and the Peace and Justice Commission.
Although police have already begun training on implementing the policy, Councilman Jesse Arreguin brought the resolution to the council, saying he feared it might otherwise languish within the city bureaucracy without being fully and formally implemented.
Arreguin underscored that the critical part of the new policy is data collection.
Having the data on police stops is "not only to be a deterrent to profiling, but to also provide analytical data which the department and city officials can use to determine whether incidents of profiling have occurred," Arreguin said. "It will discourage profiling if it does happen and protect the rights and civil liberties of people in our community."
Mayor Tom Bates and City Manager Christine Daniel argued that the council should delay a vote on the resolution until September, after the council summer break, to get a report from the police chief, currently on vacation, on when officers would be trained on the new policy.
"I think it would be good to postpone this discussion until we have an opportunity to have the chief come back with an implementation plan," Bates said, adding, "Not to say that they don't racially profile every once in a while, but on balance we have one of the best police departments in the nation."
After the meeting, Capt. Cynthia Harris -- present at the meeting although the city manager did not call on her to speak -- said that most of the sworn officers would be trained within the four-month implementation window.
Reacting to the call for a delay in adopting the resolution, Councilman Kriss Worthington addressed his council colleagues, contending that, although Berkeley's image is progressive, "in reality, we are a hotbed of hypocrisy."
He called the new policy "mild" and placed police profiling in the context of bias throughout city institutions.
"You can look at who gets appointed (to commissions), who gets hired, who gets the millions of dollars in contracts, and in this case, who gets stopped," he said.
"There is a continuing legacy of unfairness. There is a continuing history to this very day -- people in Berkeley are experiencing racism. This policy offers us a small step forward. This is long overdue."