Public Comment

Berkeley Mayor leads City Council in Vote to Sign Off on Police Cooperation Agreements with Trump Regime

James McFadden
Friday March 17, 2017 - 04:49:00 PM

Here are some observations on Tuesday night’s vote (3-14-2017) on Police cooperation and aid agreements with various local, state and federal agencies. In summary, the Council passed the bulk of these agreements leaving further discussion regarding cooperation on the Bay Area Urban Areas Security Initiative (UASI) and the Northern California Regional Intelligence Center (NCRIC) for a later April 25 meeting. But the interesting thing is how this went down, and what they voted for – including cooperation with ICE. 

Public comment (about 20 people - a good showing for a late night vote) was entirely against the Federal agreements. Some people focused on narrow provisions; others were against any and all cooperation with the Trump regime. 

But before the public comment period even started, the mayor announced he had already decided what should be done and had a motion in hand. I guess this exercise of public comment was, once again, one of false empowerment, just going through the motions and pretending to listen. Some Council members didn't even bother pretending. Droste, Wengraf and Maio spent much of their time on phones or computers -- probably doing email. Worthington didn’t even bother to stay for the vote. I was surprised Kate Harrison didn't show up to speak as a citizen since this was an issue she raised during her campaign (she was sworn in the next day). 

There was a funny moment in the meeting where Linda Maio asked the Police Chief about some details in the agreement and the Chief seemed confused. I suspect he didn’t read the 900+ page agreement and thought he could wing it. When it was clear he couldn’t answer any questions, and all he could do was talk in generalities, Linda stopped asking. I think she was embarrassed for him. 

From my skimming of the document, it appeared to be mostly boilerplate from previous years – probably produced by some previous City Manager’s staffer. The Federal agreements, which I read more carefully, appeared to have flimsy justifications, as Andrea Prichett of Cop Watch pointed out. 

With what we now know about the Trump regime, I can’t for the life of me understand why the City Council would want to make any agreements with ICE, Homeland Security, DEA, Urban Shield, or any other arm of our surveillance state. Aren’t we supposed to be a sanctuary or refuge city? So why do we have an agreement with ICE? 

There was a moment when Sophie Hahn actually responded to the public comments. She drew cheers when she questioned whether the Council should adopt any of these federal agreements with the Trump regime. She knows how to play the crowd. She seemed to have Bartlett and Davila on her side, and even Maio indicated she was leaning against these Federal agreements. 

But alas it was all for show. And just like Tom Bates, Jesse put an end to that discussion with his pre-planned motion to sign off on nearly all the agreements and only reconsider two of the provisions at some later date – crumbs to the public concerns. And our Council members got in line and voted with the mayor, ignoring public testimony. Meet the new boss, same as the old boss. 

Sophie’s playing to the crowd reminded me of a few times when I saw her on the ZAB – agreeing with the public then voting with the majority against the public. I think only Cheryl Davila has shown any real backbone since the new Council formed, voting against the Berkeley armored vehicle back in December. But alas even she folded and voted with the mayor. Perhaps 900+ pages was just too much to read. Or perhaps they still haven’t quite grasped that these agreements are with the Trump regime. 

I'm beginning to think the Council’s problems are structural. Once you are part of the Council majority, you feel compelled to maintain the status quo – to vote with the herd. Various departments - City Manager and Police in this case - apply pressure to the Council – tell them not to change anything. The Police Review Commission pushes back with almost no force, asking for crumbs on UASI and NCRIC. And the Council, afraid to rock the boat, merely tries to please the Chief and City Manager. There seems to be a real reluctance to actually try to fix the system. It seems that it will take a lot more public pressure, and more eloquent speakers, to change the City’s direction away from police militarization and cooperation with the Trump regime. 

If you think some of these agreements will be helpful in protecting our democracy, I suggest you watch the documentary “Do Not Resist,” or read the books “The New Jim Crow” and “Rise of the Warrior Cop”. It will definitely cure you of that nonsense. These federal agreements set us up for a nationalized police force to suppress social movements like Occupy, DAPL, BLM, and the climate movement. 

Using these agreements to usurp local control of our militarized police force, the Trump regime will be able to crush all progressive movements. Don’t believe the nonsense that local ordinances will take precedence – the agreements have outs to allow the police to be the arm of Trump in a crisis. These agreements cement the federalization of our police that began with the Patriot Act – a clear effort to undermine the Posse Comitatus Act. By signing off on these agreements, the Council is making the rope to hang us if we attempt to resist the Trump regime.