In response to concerns of police involvement in activities ranging from domestic surveillance and reporting, to the use of mutual aid to crackdown on political demonstrations, Berkeley City Council will consider changes its policy on mutual aid requests and to agreements with local and federal law enforcement agencies this Tuesday night.
City law requires that the Berkeley City Council review and approve mutual aid and other agreements with law enforcement agencies. These agreements are routinely approved without much discussion. However, the system of mutual aid has come under scrutiny after multiple law enforcement agencies were called to neighboring Oakland to respond to the removal of the encampment in Frank Ogawa Plaza and other demonstrations. Also last year other law enforcement agencies were called onto the UC Berkeley campus to remove the Occupy Cal encampment. In both cases, footage was taken of excessive use of force towards demonstrators. These incidents have raised important questions about whether mutual aid should be called for protests and how to best protect the civil liberties of those involved in civil disobedience and preventing excessive use of force.
Berkeley City Councilmember Jesse Arreguin has proposed several recommendations to change Berkeley’s mutual aid policy, including not automatically responding to mutual aid requests involving civil disobedience where no other crimes have been committed. Additionally, the new policy asks that the Berkeley Police Department carefully evaluate all mutual aid requests, and, if tactics are being used that are unsafe or unlawful, the Police Department can remove all personnel from the scene, if necessary.
In addition to adopting a new mutual aid policy which is attached, the Council will consider changing its relationship with federal intelligence gathering and reporting programs; modify its jail policy to prohibit handing over illegal immigrants to federal immigration authorities; and look at changing its criminal intelligence policy so that people involved in civil disobedience and First Amendment activities are not the subjects of police investigation.
The purpose of these reforms is to ensure that Berkeley’s agreements comport with its values and policies, and the agreements include adequate civil and human right safeguards.