You suggested that I pass on information about our neighborhood, and what goes on over here in south Berkeley. I took you at your word. I read your article in the Planet Monday on Cop Watch, and wanted to comment on that particular organization and how it truly operates.
First of all, my general impression of the Cops Watch folks is that they would object, in principal, to anything and EVERYTHING the Berkeley Police do. While they may not like it, the laws under which the BPD operate are legally binding on everyone, not just those philosophically-disposed to obey them. The fault does not lie with the police, but with those who choose to disregard and disobey those laws, when arrests are made and laws enforced.
No society can withstand the pressures from individual selfishness WITHOUT laws, and those who operate as if it is their “judgement call” to act in conscious disregard of those laws deserve what they get.
Second, the Cops Watch propaganda would like to put it out, that the Berkeley police are a bunch of mindless thugs who (implied-NEEDLESSLY) harass and attack innocent Berkeley residents. Nothing could be further from the truth. Anyone who imagines that of the Berkeley Police Department officers, simply cannot KNOW any of them. If it wouldn't be such a shock to their systems to face the reality of who these people are, I would suggest that they actually get to KNOW individual officers, rather that hide behind the misbegotten notion that cops = bad guys. I can tell you from personal experience, since I am (at least) acquainted with over half of the BPD employees, there’s not one “Barney Fife,” or good ol’-boy-Southern-Sheriff-type in the bunch. Most of them go out of their way to be MORE than tolerant, MORE than cautious, MORE than restrained, in their use of (any sort of) force. Berkeley is NOT Los Angeles, not even Oakland, and stretching notions of what is considered professional law enforcement would never be tolerated in this city. It can’t, and it doesn’t.
Not that it would make good press, but I could name you officer after officer, who dedicates his/her free time – on a volunteer basis – to help out in Berkeley communities, even though most of them don't actually live here.
They coach Little League, they tutor kids, they mentor, they do social services by the dozens. None of these generous acts of kindness are ever acknowledged, noticed, or lauded, except by those most directly affected by their acts. But, then again, that view of who the BPD officers are would really cause some serious discordance in the Cop Watch take on reality.
On the other hand, Cop Watch participants, busy trying to set themselves up as some sort of social heroes for “monitoring” legitimate police activity, are actually doing something else entirely different. I have WATCHED THEM myself, as they shoved video cameras in the faces of officers in the process of affecting an arrest. The point is to intimidate and harass, not merely record process and police actions. Just that interference, alone, can prejudice the standing of the arrest. In a City that has, effectively, already legitimized drug use by making it next to impossible to make charges stick, they are interfering with justice, plain and simple.
After one such act of interference with police activity, the so-called activists shoved a microphone in the face of one officer I know, and asked him if he wanted to “make a comment,” for the record. He declined, saying merely that he didn't think he would be the best person for them to interview.
What he DIDN'T say, was that he had personally picked up two of the main Cop Watch leaders, and taken them to the hospital for treatment, when he found them overdosed on HEROIN.
When Cop Watch participants come to the table with clean hands themselves, then and only then should they have a right to express an opinion about the police, and be heard and listened to by the majority of the law-abiding residents of Berkeley.
The author’s name has been withheld from this letter for her safety.