Public Comment

Will Council Member Walk the Walk or Just Talk the Talk?

By Gene Bernardi, Veterans For Peace, Representative to the Coalition for a Safe Berkeley (for identification only) and SuperBOLD member.
Tuesday March 13, 2012 - 09:30:00 PM

While George Lippman’s commentary (“a Step on the Road to Protect Civil Rights”, BDP 3/6-13/12)informs us of the patriotic remarks of several councilmembers and particularly the eloquent speech of Councilmember Anderson, it misinforms the reader of the actual vote on the police department agreements that took place at the 2/14/2012 City Council meeting. 

Referring to the proposal Councilmember Arreguin distributed at the meeting, (which asked the City Council to APPROVE all the police department agreements which he "bulleted" with conditions). Councilmember Capitelli moved and Councilmember Wozniak seconded “to approve agreements with the Northern California Regional Information Center, The Urban Area Security Initiative, and the University of California police department and to refer the bullet point information from supplemental recommendations 1 and 2 as well as 4, 5, and 6 in their entirety to the City Manager and the Police Review Commission for consideration in the 2012 Mutual Aid Agreement review process. City Manager to report back to Council by May 15, 2012.” (Annotated Agenda Berkeley City Council meeting, Tuesday, February 14, 2012, Item 14, p.5) 

Prior to the vote on the main motion, Councilmember Kriss Worthington made a substitute motion, seconded by Councilmember Anderson, also referring to Arreguin’s proposal, to approve items 3-6 [regarding modifications to Mutual Aid agreements with U.C. and other police departments and Jail and Intelligence policies] and defer action on items 1 and 2 [agreements with the Northern California Regional Information Center (NCRIC) and the Urban Areas Security Initiative (UASI)]. Councilmembers Anderson, Arreguin and Worthington were the only YES votes on the substitute motion, so it failed. Next came the vote on Capitelli/Wozniak’s main motion to essentially renew the Police Department Agreements without change (except by default to include a request to Police Chief Meehan to discuss with the U.C. Police Chief adoption of the City’s Policy regarding not immediately towing vehicles of unlicensed undocumented persons.) First round of voting, all Councilmembers except Worthington (who voted NO and Anderson who passed) voted YES, then Anderson also voted YES. Final vote 8-1-0 to approve NCRIC and UASI and Mutual Aid agreements without modification. 

The action regarding NCRIC should be voided since the Council voted to approve an agreement with the Northern California Regional Information Center which I don’t think exists. The federally funded agency under consideration is the NCR INTELLIGENCE Center. This program involves submitting Suspicious Activity Reports (SARs) which may be based on unwarranted investigations and need not be based on ‘reasonable suspicion of criminal behavior’. Thus, NCRIC violates our constitutional rights to privacy, freedom of speech and assembly, as well as our security, by facilitating profiling, especially of dark skinned and Muslim appearing persons. 

The SARs, which may be completely subjective reports of benign activities, such as taking a photo of a building, are conveyed to data fusion centers. With the National Defense Authorization Act in place, the SARs can be used by the military to detain indefinitely, without charge or trial, persons who are merely suspected of ‘substantial support’ for terrorism which is not clearly defined in the Defense Act. 

Two Berkeley police officers operate under NCRIC as Local Terrorism Liaison officers and the agreement between the City and NCRIC is not publicly available. 

We are NOT a democracy with U.S. Constitutional protection if we allow secret agreements under which our police may make Suspicious Activity Reports that have no requirement for reasonable suspicion of a crime. 

The Urban Areas Security Initiative (under which training exercises for urban warfare were held on the U.C. campus and were credited for their effectiveness in the eviction of Occupy Oakland) works closely with NCRIC. 

The 2012 Mutual Aid Agreement Review Process including NCRIC and UASI will come before the City Council on or about May 15th, 2012. Will the Berkeley City Councilmembers Walk the Walk and fulfill their Oath to Defend the Constitution against Domestic Enemies. (NCRIC and UASI) i.e. vote to protect our civil liberties, or will they Talk the Talk as they did on February 14, 2012? The police department Mutual Aid, NCRIC and UASI agreements will be on the Police Review Commission agenda on March 28, 2012. The PRC Chair stated there are only a limited number of Berkeley community members “who want to protect civil liberties…this is not a city wide concern”. Let’s prove the Chair wrong! Attend the PRC on March 28th, 7pm South Berkeley Senior Center at Ellis and Ashby Streets, Berkeley. 

Gene Bernardi