The city is working to create a new task force to help change the city’s approach to policing, crisis intervention, violence prevention and community safety. Members of the new group will work with the National Institute for Criminal Justice Reform and “serve as a hub for community engagement” for Berkeley’s efforts “reimagine public safety.”
Task force members should be “people active in the Berkeley community who can bring subject expertise in relevant topics or speak from their own experience as a member of a historically marginalized or impacted community, using criteria identified by the City Council.”
Much of the task force work is slated to take place during the spring and summer of this year, although the city said the process may take longer. Applicants will need to provide demographic information, two references, and a written statement explaining how their background qualifies them to serve on the policing task force.
Racial equity town hall postponed
The policing task force is part of a broader effort by the city of Berkeley to bring issues of race and equity to the forefront.
As part of that work, the city had planned to hold an online town hall Thursday to “identify opportunities to improve racial equity” across existing city services. But, as of this week, that event has been postponed.
The town hall “will be rescheduled to help the City identify more opportunities to improve racial equity in City services,” Berkeley announced Monday with no further explanation.
“Racial and social equity have long been core values in our work as a City,” the city wrote in its description of the town hall event. “Nonetheless, we know that Berkeley is not immune to the deep, systemic inequities present across our nation. As we continuously strive to improve equity in service delivery, we want to engage our community in an open dialogue and hear from you directly about what’s working, where we can improve, and what we can do to best bring marginalized voices into the conversation.”
Other police reform efforts are still underway
City staff, officials and community members have been working since last year to “create a new paradigm of public safety in Berkeley, which aims to re-focus Police Department work on violent and criminal matters while redirecting some funding currently spent on policing to violence prevention and diversion programs, including those targeted on domestic violence, youth outreach, mental health, housing and homeless services, and restorative justice,” the city has said.
The initiative, which the Berkeley City Council approved in an omnibus package last year, has multiple prongs:
- A new Specialized Care Unit pilot program to respond to non-criminal emergency calls
- A new Department of Transportation made up of unarmed civilian employees who would “administer parking regulations and traffic laws”
- Audits of the police department budget and 911 calls to see how resources might be reallocated
The city manager posts regular updates about all of these efforts on the city website and describes them during City Council meetings.
Stay tuned for news on the city police reform efforts as more information becomes available.
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