Public Comment

Silencing the Witnesses

By Andrea Prichett
Thursday January 21, 2010 - 09:32:00 AM

Police misconduct is epidemic in this country and anyone with two eyes and a heart knows this is true. The few protections against abuse that once existed have been removed. The Berkeley Police Review Commission, once a model for the nation, has been emasculated to the point that its hearings are held in secret and its findings are confidential. As most observers know, our elected officials are loathe to offer any public resistance to police supremacy. 

I recently experienced how bold police have become in this era of increased police power and immunity. On Thursday, January 14, I was walking with a friend on Telegraph Ave. We observed about five police units and seven or more officers surrounding an African-American man whose legs were restrained in a wrap device. He was shirtless with his arms bound behind him and a hood on his head. He complained that he couldn't breathe. Within two minutes of our arrival, UCPD officer Aranas #76 ran up on us and began pushing us up onto the sidewalk. Despite the fact that we were about 50-60 feet away, the man was bound, other people were observing, the cop threatened me for having stepped off of the sidewalk. 

This officer knew me; he knew that for 20 years I have been working with Copwatch and have been advocating for increased police oversight. In fact, this officer also knew that I had been deposed as an expert witness in a civil suit against him related to allegations of his misconduct. Perhaps that is why he gave me a ticket for simply stepping off of the curb. Perhaps that is why he decided that I should be handcuffed while he wrote the ticket for “Pedestrian on a Roadway.” Perhaps that is why, rather than actually tell me to give him my cell phone, he resorted to pain compliance holds on my hands and fingers. 

I know that I was targeted for my effort to observe this dubious procedure on Telegraph Ave. I suspect I that was targeted by this officer because I tried to hold him accountable for his actions in the past. According to BPD Training Bulletin #91, “It is the policy of the BPD to place the least possible restriction on citizen observation of the police.” I encourage ALL residents to stop and watch when you see police activity and to fight for your right to observe. 


Andrea Prichett is a founding member of Berkeley Copwatch.