Berkeley Police Chief Andrew Greenwood
Berkeley Police Chief Andrew Greenwood speaking to City Council members in 2017. Photo: Emilie Raguso

Update, 7 p.m. Davila’s late item on the police chief failed to qualify for the agenda after no one seconded her motion to add it. She says she will bring it back later.

Original story: Councilmember Cheryl Davila called Tuesday for a vote of no confidence in the leadership of Berkeley Police Chief Andrew Greenwood following remarks he made during a council meeting about Black Lives Matter protests in June.

On June 9, during a council discussion on whether to block police from using tear gas, Greenwood was asked what tools officers would have if their lives were threatened and they didn’t have the gas at their disposal. “Firearms. We can shoot people,” Greenwood said. “If you are being attacked with lethal force, if we don’t have less-lethal that can drive it back, then we’re absent a tool. That’s my concern. I’m not trying to be overly dramatic and I apologize.”

A handful of individuals speaking during public comment that night said Greenwood’s comments were offensive and that he should resign. Some have continued to demand his resignation during a protest march and in subsequent city meetings. Until Tuesday, however, no council member had expressed their support for the position.

Council is already set to discuss five other items related to police reforms in its meeting Tuesday, which begins at 6 p.m. They include a 50% reduction in the police budget, the removal of traffic enforcement and a range of “non-criminal” calls from police, an analysis of police calls, and the creation of a community process about all of the proposed changes.

Davila initially submitted her item about the police chief to the clerk’s office at noon Tuesday, according to emails reviewed by Berkeleyside. Several hours later, she submitted a revised version of the proposal. In line with council rules of procedure that are designed to ensure the public has adequate time to review agenda materials, the item won’t become part of Tuesday night’s agenda unless there is a two-thirds vote by council to accept it.

Under state transparency laws about public meetings, council agendas must be posted at least 72 hours in advance so the public can review them. Officials are allowed to put forward time-critical or urgency items if they can demonstrate that immediate action is required and also that “the need for action” came to their attention after the agenda was posted.

Davila’s initial item called for Greenwood’s termination or resignation. Her revised item calls for a vote of no confidence in him and says “new leadership” is needed. Davila said Greenwood was “advocating for shooting protestors of police violence” in his remarks June 9.

“During this time of national recognition, reckoning of police violence and racial justice, the Chief’s comments were not merely a gaff, but an inexcusable declaration of police violence and the violation of the most basic rights of the United States Constitution, which he is sworn to protect,” Davila wrote. “In order to transform our police, new leadership is required.”

Davila did not explain why she submitted her items so late when the chief’s remarks happened in June, but she wrote that there had been “countless public comment and emails” describing Greenwood’s firing as “an immediate and necessary first step for public safety” in Berkeley.

Ongoing demands to defund, reform police

On Monday, several individuals tagged the Berkeley police station with slogans such as “Kill cops,” “The only good cop is a dead cop,” and ACAB, an abbreviation meaning “All Cops Are Bastards.” The graffiti took place during a protest calling to defund the police, but one participant in the demonstration said those who did the damage were “tagalongs” and that organizers of the event asked them to stop.

In recent years, a community process has been underway to address disparities in policing that have been seen in Berkeley and across the nation. The Berkeley City Council has said it will place a charter amendment on the ballot in November to change its police oversight process.

Much of the available data, however, shows that police in Berkeley regularly use restraint in their responses to dangerous situations. The last officer-involved shooting in Berkeley took place in 2012.

The city’s Police Review Commission sustained only two allegations of misconduct in 2018, and one was later overturned on appeal. In 2019, only one finding was sustained, on an allegation of discourtesy.

Since early June, the City Council has grappled repeatedly with how to reimagine policing in Berkeley in response to many hours of public comment calling for reform and, at times, the complete abolition of the department. At the end of June, officials approved more than $9 million in reductions to the police department budget and shifted some of that money toward efforts and programs related to addressing systemic racism.

Council has also voted, in concept, in support of the creation of an Office of Racial Equity and in favor of increased use-of-force reporting requirements.

A range of reforms on Tuesday’s agenda

On Tuesday night, the City Council is set to tackle several proposals related to policing, including a comprehensive audit of police calls suggested by Councilmember Ben Bartlett as part of a broader George Floyd Community Safety Act that includes the creation of a new Specialized Care Unit made up of “community crises-workers [who] would deal with 911 calls that the operator deemed non-criminal, [and] that posed no imminent threat to first respondents.”

Councilmember Rigel Robinson has asked for the creation of a new Berkeley Department of Transportation “to ensure a racial justice lens in traffic enforcement and the development of transportation policy, programs, & infrastructure.” Under the item, which would require further discussion as part of a community process before any changes would happen with existing enforcement, police in Berkeley would no longer handle “pretextual” traffic stops, which “have a history of racial bias that has been continually backed up by the courts,” according to the item: “Whren vs. United States enabled police officers to conduct pretextual stops, in which minor traffic violations are used as pretext to stop and search drivers suspected of more serious criminal activity.”

Davila also has an item up Tuesday night calling for a 50% reduction in the police department’s budget and asking that “any function that is currently served by Berkeley Police but would be better served by trained city staff or community partners should be transferred out of the police department with all due haste.” Those could include “all non-emergency calls, mental health calls (including wellness checks), calls related to intoxication, calls related to homelessness, [and] calls involving domestic violence.”

Councilmember Susan Wengraf has put forward a proposal for a robust community process around public safety reforms and several other council members later put forward a similar proposal.

The policing items will be heard together and there will be a single public comment period for all of them, officials have said previously.

Tuesday’s council meeting is scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. Agenda materials and links to watch the meeting remotely are posted on the city website.

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Emilie Raguso (former senior editor, news) joined Berkeleyside in 2012 and covered politics, public safety and development until her departure in 2022. In 2017, Emilie was named Journalist...