Berkeley police reforms aim to reduce unnecessary interactions between people of color, police

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BERKELEY, Calif. (KRON) — The Berkeley City Auditor just released a review of Berkeley police responses and stops.

Some key findings are similar to previous data that shows police stop Black people at a significantly higher rate compared to their population in the city.

However, recently enacted police reforms may reduce unnecessary interactions between people-of-color and Berkeley police.

No more being stopped for low-level offenses that do not impact public safety, ending stops for not wearing a seatbelt or expired tags and requiring written consent for consent searches. These are some of the sweeping police reforms passed last summer by the Berkeley City Council and are now in effect in the City of Berkeley.

“I think our department began to implement the policy several months ago,” Mayor Jesse Arreguin said. “We are getting more information about how police are using force. it has resulted in less force used by our police.”

Decreasing opportunities for potential uses of force by police after being stopped for non-violent offenses is the goal, says Mayor Arreguin.

“And required greater reporting and limits around the types of force that police can use in a variety of different incidents,” Arreguin said.

The momentum for police reform has moved all the way up to the state legislature where Senate Bill 2, the police officers certification and civil rights bill, was recently passed by public safety committees in the state senate and assembly.

Senator Scott Wiener is the principal coauthor of SB2.

“Senate Bill 2 does two primary things. First, it makes sure that bad cops can be decertified and, are no longer able to work as police officers,” Sen. Wiener said. “Right now may have had real problems, can often just go to another police department. The second thing it does is it eliminates qualified immunity for police officers in california, which is a defense that officers can use when they have violated someone’s constitutional rights by using excessive force.”

Statewide police reforms are the logical next steps, says mayor Arreguin.

“While it is important for local communities to take steps, we do need state intervention to make sure this is the policy statewide,” he said. “Standards around use-of-force because things do sometimes escalate.”

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