The city is asking community members to weigh in this week about what “a new model of public safety” might look like in Berkeley.

The online survey, launched Thursday, will be the main way people who generally don’t come out for public meetings can have their views heard. Responses are anonymous and the deadline is June 15.

The city is working to “restructure” the city’s approach “to violence prevention, crisis intervention, policing, and community safety,” continuing police reform efforts launched last year in the wake of George Floyd’s murder.

“We want to know what health and safety issues you’re most concerned about and what programs and services you see as key to community safety,” the city wrote in its announcement Thursday.

The city is working on plans to “redirect” money from the police budget to other programs that would be focused on “violence prevention and diversion programs, including those targeted on domestic violence, youth outreach, mental health, crisis response, substance abuse, housing and homeless services, and restorative justice.”

This would allow police to focus solely on “violent and criminal matters and de-escalation,” according to the city’s announcement.

To do this work, the city launched a task force earlier this year and hired the National Institute for Criminal Justice Reform to oversee community efforts.

Community members, city staff and officials are now working to create a new Specialized Care Unit composed of crisis-response workers who would come to the aid of people struggling with mental illness or substance abuse; develop a new transportation department (dubbed “BerkDOT”) “to ensure a racial justice lens in enforcing parking regulations and traffic laws”; and conduct ongoing audits of 911 calls and the police budget.

In addition to the new survey, the Reimagining Public Safety Task Force plans to hold listening sessions, focus groups and a citywide town hall to collect ideas from the community.

Sign up for updates from the city to get details about these efforts as they are scheduled.

“These efforts build on Berkeley’s longstanding commitment to creating a more equitable community,” the city wrote in its survey announcement, “and support the City’s Strategic Plan goals to ‘champion and demonstrate social and racial equity’ and to ‘create a resilient, safe, connected, and prepared City.'”

More resources

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 of the Year...