Public Comment

An Open Letter to Mayor Arreguin and the Berkeley City Council

Moni T. Law, J.D.
Friday November 03, 2017 - 07:09:00 PM

It is with a heavy heart that I write this reflection. I attended last night’s City Council meeting with the hope that this important issue would finally receive the attention it urgently deserves. These matters were not new or before the council for the first time. Many of these issues were at the end of the council’s agenda at least three occasions last year, with time running out- just as it did again last night.

Over 20 residents remained patiently from 6pm- 11 pm last night. It is very unfortunate that the council imploded, argued, sparred, and disintegrated while the urgent issue of community policing, implicit bias training to eliminate racial profiling, and accountability for use of excessive force hung in the balance - and died on the vine. 

Our Police Review Commission is sorely overdue for reform: it is known as the first in the nation, but it has not been updated for 45 years! The ‘Board of Inquiry’ is an exercise in futility and frustration, and I know from experience. The idea of citizen oversight is meaningless when those commissioners are not granted the right to relevant documents. It is a process inflicting more harm than good when the complainant is forced to endure interrogation of an attorney for the police officer (who sits near you in full uniform), and the complainant is then excused and not allowed to stay for the questioning of the officer. 

These urgent items were brought forth a year ago by citizens seeking changes to avoid the horror of December 2014 when citizens including Cal students, nonviolent #BlackLivesMatter protestors, clergy, and bystanders were beaten, tear gassed and emotionally traumatized by the militarized police response to a peaceful march. I encourage you to watch again the videos of officers throwing a woman to the ground, striking people including a member of clergy with hard batons, throwing tear gas and flash grenades, etc. We can and must do better. 

The list of prior studies on racial profiling were outlined by Council-member Harrison last night not as a ‘long speech,’ but I would have hoped that others on the Dias would have considered that relevant information providing context for your deliberation. 

A Federal Court settlement agreement in the matter of Law v. City of Berkeley includes a number of promises made by the BPD. Some of those promises have not been fulfilled, however. I remain optimistic that the City and Chief Greenwood will remain true to their word. The City of Berkeley has the opportunity to have the best police department in the nation, responsive to all communities, committed to justice for all, engaging in best practices. 

Unfortunately, we appear to get stuck in a political quagmire where some people in our city become collateral damage. Our democratic process must include the ability to take in the constructive ideas of many and formulate sound public policy, laws and practices. This town is filled with thousands of the best minds and experts on these issues. Let us move forward and get the job done. Please. I won’t give up. These issues are too important. I love this city too much to give up on it (or its leaders).