BERKELEY, Calif. (KRON) — Text messages allegedly exchanged between Berkeley Police Department officers have spurred an investigation by the city and caused the police union’s president to step down.

The Berkeley Police Association union announced Wednesday that it supports an independent investigation into allegations of “inappropriate text messages from a Berkeley police officer who also served as the union’s president.”

The messages contain banter between police officers who allegedly targeted homeless and Black people downtown for arrest quotas in 2020. “81 arrests! We can do 19 by Friday for sure!” stated one text attributed to police Sgt. Darren Kacalek, who is also union president of the Berkeley Police Association.

In a group chat, Sgt. Kacalek’s name is attributed to a message stating, “I’m on my third triple Jack and Coke. This is definitely a ‘drink’ day. Stern is gonna come back with a new strain that wipes out the homeless pop. We will just ride by the bodies!”

“Just kick ass, arrest people, have fun, and get me results,” another text with Kacalek’s name writes.

Berkeley city councilwoman Sophie Hahn described the messages as “racist and anti-homeless.”

BPD text
(Screengrab of text messages provided by Office of the Director of Police Accountability)

The union’s board wrote in a statement to KRON4, “We are disturbed by the alleged texts by BPA president Darren Kacalek. As police officers, public servants, and union members we condemn in the strongest terms any negative comments concerning the housing status or ethnicity of those we police and serve. Discrimination has no place in modern police work.”

Sgt. Kacalek took a leave of absence Wednesday as the union’s president, according to police Sgt. Scott Castle. Kacalek did not respond to KRON4’s request for comment.

The authenticity of the text messages has not yet been confirmed by city officials. A spokesperson for the city said Berkeley officials are hiring an external investigator to probe further into the allegations.

The messages were revealed by a fired Berkeley police officer, Corey Shedoudy. Shedoudy took screenshots of messages that he claims were exchanged between officers assigned to BPD’s downtown and bike task forces. The screenshots were recently made public by the Office of the Director of Police Accountability.

Shedoudy claims Sgt. Kacalek ordered officers to make 100 arrests per month. Officers used tactics such as stop-and-frisk, even without a reasonable suspicion of a crime, to meet the quota, according to Shedoudy.

Hahn wrote, “This deeply distressing situation is about more than just a series of text messages. It reflects a culture of hostility toward our unhoused neighbors and those suffering from mental health issues who need our support, not our scorn.”

The police officers union emphasized that views expressed in the text messages do not reflect the majority of Berkeley’s police force.

“We want the public to know that messages of this type are not reflective of the entire body of officers who work night and day to protect the citizens of Berkeley,” the union’s board wrote. “We support the city’s call for an independent and thorough investigation.”

Interim Police Chief Jennifer Louis said the allegations are “extremely concerning and they deserve to be investigated thoroughly.”

The city was slated to appoint Louis as its new permanent police chief on Tuesday night, however, city officials decided to delay appointing Louis until the text message investigation is conducted.