Public Comment

Berkeley Police Review Commission Okays Suspicious Activity Reports

By Gene Bernardi, SuperBold
Friday April 20, 2012 - 02:26:00 PM

May 15th the Berkeley City Council will consider their fiscal 2012 Police Department (PD) agreements. April 11, the Police Review Commission (PRC) voted to recommend that the City Council approve the PD’s verbal agreements with the Northern California Regional Intelligence Center (NCRIC) and the Urban Areas Security Initiative (UASI) on condition that they be “reduced to writing”.

Additionally, PRC advised, per Councilmember Arreguin’s proposal, that Suspicious Activity Reports be submitted to NCRIC only on individuals/groups that have been charged with a crime, exempting individuals/groups who have only committed non-violent civil disobedience offences.

The verbal agreement with UASI includes a “direction” to the City Manager and Police Chief that the police should not be allowed to use tactics, they have been drilled in under UASI, if they are contrary to Berkeley PD policies. Further “direction” asks for a disclosure and oversight process, involving the PRC, of all training as long as it excludes specific tactics.

What’s wrong with this picture? 

1. There is no provision for the City Council to reconsider the verbal agreements with NCRIC and UASI (if approved) after they are “reduced to writing”. (Approving verbal PD agreements violates BMC 2.04.170 and 2.04.190) 

2. Individuals/groups who are charged with a crime are innocent until proven guilty. Often charges are dropped. 

3. Suspicious Activity Reports (SARs) are not based on reasonable suspicion of criminal activity but on non-criminal behaviors such as taking a photo of a building or bridge; buying fertilizer; writing in a notebook; wearing a hoodie; etc. 

4. The NCRIC Intelligence Center is a fusion center where the SARs are permanently entered in coordination with the FBI Joint Terrorism Taskforce. Active duty military personnel are also participants at fusion centers. This violates the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878 which prohibits U.S. military from acting in a law enforcement capacity on U.S. soil. (ACLU, “What’s Wrong With Fusion Centers?” 2007) 

5. Warfare is waged by the military. Training through militarized drills using urban warfare tactics under UASI may be hard to later ignore. Since the specific tactics taught will be excluded from disclosure and oversight, how will taxpayers know what their money is supporting? 

These Police Department agreements as well as their Mutual Aid Pacts will come before the City Council on May 15, 2012, 7pm in Berkeley’s Old City Hall, M.L.King, Jr. Way between Center and Allston Streets.