|The Copwatch DeCal class, called "Community Based Police Accountability," is back again for Spring 2016. Topics covered will include militarization, gentrification, mental health and more. Peyton Provenzano and Emma Fogel, both sophomores, will continue facilitating the class, which will be held on Mondays from 5:00 - 6:30 PM in a location TBA. Community members are welcome and encouraged to sit in.
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Schedule a speaker for your class or organization!
After four years of foot dragging by the Berkeley Police Department, Copwatch was finally able to get hard data on the number of people stopped by BPD. Not surprisingly (and based on their own data collection), BPD disclosed that it is practicing racial profiling at an alarming rate, stopping Black people at approximately five times as White people. Berkeley Copwatchers are connecting the dots between police harassment of Black people and the rapidly decreasing African American population. With the unleashing of developers upon our city and gentrification run amok, we need to carefully create a united resistance against racism and corruption within our city.
We are asking community groups and organizations if they would like our people to come to your meeting/gathering and give a visual presentation that lasts less than 30 minutes. Speakers will bring some graphs and facts to help paint the big picture of what is happening in Berkeley, and will also leave ample time for discussion of these difficult topics.
If you would like us to give a presentation to your group or know of another group that may be interested, please call (510) 229-0527 or email email@example.com.
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In order to achieve our goals with the Educational Campaign, we need projectors! We're asking around to see if anyone has an LCD projector that they would be willing to lend or give to us. Or, if you would like to donate some money to our projector fund, that would be amazing too! If you have any leads, or would like to donate, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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WHAT'S WRONG WITH THE NEW GENERAL ORDER ON "THE RIGHT TO WATCH"
Back in 1983, BPD CHief Ron Nelson issued Training Bulletin 91 entitled, “The Right to Watch.” In the policy, it is stated that the police should put “the least possible restriction on public observation of the police.” At Copwatch, we rely upon this Training Bulletin for safety and access. It is crucial to us. We like that it is a high standard of access.
However, over the summer, Chief Meehan took it upon himself to issue General Order W-01 which bears the same name, “The Right to Watch,” but significantly alters the language: It shall be the policy of the Berkeley Police Department to minimize restrictions on public observation, photographing or video recording of police officers’ performance of their duties, while ensuring the safety of the public and the officers.
This rewrite changes the standard from “the least possible restriction” to instructing officers to “minimize restrictions” on citizens. For those of us who watch police regularly, we know how common it is for officers to arbitrarily demand that we “move back.” We have been told to “step back” so that we do not see or hear what is happening. In order to guard against officers who try to hide their misdeeds by demanding that we move back, the Federal courts have decided that we have a right to observe. In Glik vs. Boston the First Circuit court noted, [A] citizen's right to film government officials, including law enforcement officers, in the discharge of their duties in a public space is a basic, vital, and well-established liberty safeguarded by the First Amendment.
Likewise, in ACLU vs. Alvarez, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals found in 2012 that yes, the public has the right to observe the police.
The new General Order also includes a section from the old Training Bulletin that continues to be problematic. That section states, “…that the confidentiality of the matter being discussed with a suspect, victim, witness, or reporting party is not compromised except with concurrence of the citizen and the officer involved.” Berkeley Copwatch maintains that it is NOT up to the cop on the street to give her/his “concurrence” in order for us to video. We are not bound to confidentiality when it comes to reporting on police activity. Our job is to record and document police activity in public spaces and the law states we have a right to do it.
When we copwatch, we dance between asserting our rights without interfering with the police. We cannot violate section 148 from the California Penal Code (obstructing, delaying, interfering with a police officer in the course of her/his duty). However, there is nothing in the law that states that we must get officer approval for what we choose to video.
The Police Review Commission has recently formed a subcommittee on the Right to Watch issue and will begin meeting soon. Contact the commission and tell them how you feel about this: (510) 981-4950 or email@example.com.
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Each time they use force – whenever they punch, strike, pepper spray or point a gun at someone – the police are required to write a “Use of Force Report.”
Once, those documents were open to the public. Now, sadly, the BPD refuses to release any of them or the information contained within them because of restrictions placed on releasing personnel documents or records that could be used to evaluate an officer.
The use of these Use of Force Reports are a crucial tool for the public and the Police Review Commission (PRC) to evaluate police misconduct. When the PRC brought the issue of these reports up on their January 12 meeting, BPD Captain Harris reiterated that they would not release the documents. Even after commissioners said they would accept redacted reports that did not have any identifying officer information on them, the BPD Captain Harris refused.
In general, gaining access to many BPD documents has proven to be needlessly difficult. Researchers and ordinary citizens who try to get information from BPD often find themselves stone walled, mislead or intentionally misunderstood and it has got to stop.
IF YOU HAVE HAD PROBLEMS GETTING ACCESS TO INFORMATION FROM BERKELEY GOVERNMENT PLEASE CONTACT US.
We would love to gather folks in the hope that our united (legal) action might compel the BPD to uphold the spirit of the Public Records Act. Remember, we have a right to see and know what our government is doing.