Under the mayor’s revised item, the city will now move forward with Councilmember Rigel Robinson’s proposal to create BerkDOT “to ensure a racial justice lens in traffic enforcement” and find ways to eliminate or reduce “pretextual stops based on minor traffic violations.”
The city will also now work to develop a pilot program to “re-assign non-criminal police service calls” to a new Specialized Care Unit staffed by a “network of crisis responders.” The city auditor’s office will also take a deep dive into police calls and traffic stops. Those items came from Councilmember Ben Bartlett’s proposal for what he called the George Floyd Community Safety Act.
The mayor’s item also sets in motion a “public safety reimagining process” that will feature “transparent community forums to listen, learn and receive people’s ideas about how policing should be re-imagined and transformed so that communities of color can be safer within their neighborhoods, the City of Berkeley, and trust in the Berkeley Police Department can begin to be rebuilt.”
Narrowing the Police Focus
As part of the public process, the city will look at what duties might eventually be shifted away from police so officers can focus on “violent and criminal matters” rather than calls about people in mental health crises or living in homeless camps.
That public process will also include, as per Davila’s proposal, consideration of “the goal of reducing the Berkeley Police Department budget by 50%, to be based on the results of requested studies and analysis and achieved through programs such as the Specialized Care Unit.”
Also in line with the Davila item, the city will look at ways to reduce the police budget so more money can be spent on youth and restorative justice programs, housing and homeless services, and mental health services, among other community needs.
During public comment, many community members said the mayor’s item did not go far enough, fast enough. One described it as a “pathetic attempt to placate the will of the people at the 11th hour.”
In his remarks, Bartlett tried to allay some of those concerns, saying he saw the omnibus motion as something that would be both sustainable and groundbreaking while creating a model the rest of the country could follow.