Residents favor shifting some police duties to unarmed staff, new survey says

A city consultant asked 630 Berkeley residents for their views about public safety and transportation. Here’s what they said.


Berkeley residents support shifting parking and traffic enforcement away from police to unarmed city staff, according to new survey results presented Thursday night to the Transportation Commission.

See the draft survey findings

The findings, which are still in draft form, compiled responses from 630 people who were asked to share their views about Berkeley transportation and public safety. As of Friday, limited information was available about the survey methodology, but staff said professional interviewers contacted respondents directly to control the sample and collect a demographically diverse pool of residents.

The survey is part of an effort underway in Berkeley to create a new department of transportation — dubbed BerkDOT — that would be driven by equity and a racial justice lens. Officials voted last year to create the new department as part of broader efforts to address systemic racial disparities related to police stops and law enforcement.

Of those interviewed in the survey, which was conducted by EMC Research, 76% said they supported “moving some police responsibilities” to other city departments.

When asked whether a police officer needed to be the one to enforce parking regulations and issue parking tickets, just 14% said police involvement was important. On the subject of bicycle and pedestrian law enforcement, just 21% said it should involve police. As for vehicle moving violations and traffic tickets, just 35% said police should be responsible.

A larger percentage, 63%, said police should continue to respond to and investigate traffic collisions with pedestrians, bicyclists or other drivers, according to the draft findings.

In one question, interviewers told residents that, “The City of Berkeley is considering moving traffic enforcement responsibilities away from police officers, instead assigning these responsibilities to a specialized set of city employees who would not carry weapons or have the power to detain or arrest people. These employees would be trained and uniformed, and would conduct activities like issuing parking tickets, investigating collisions, enforcing traffic regulations, and conducting routine traffic stops.”

Seventy-five percent of residents surveyed said they saw this as a good or very good idea.

Thursday night’s presentation to the Transportation Commission moved quickly. Transportation manager Farid Javandel reminded officials that the city would need to push for changes in state law before putting civilians in charge of traffic enforcement.

“We need to determine exactly what we’re advocating for,” Javandel said.

Remarks following the BerkDOT survey presentation were brief due to the lateness of the hour. Officials said they looked forward to reviewing all the information at length now that the draft survey findings have been published.

“BerkDOT is not just about enforcement. It’s about shifting the way we do business in this city,” said Commissioner Barnali Ghosh. “We’re all going to be looking at this data more closely.”

Preliminary summary of findings

These findings appear as published in the draft BerkDOT survey report.

  • A majority of Berkeley residents feel that getting around the City is easy, but many have concerns about safety, particularly outside of personal vehicles.
  • While most feel welcome in the Berkeley community, about one third worry about being harassed or assaulted by community members.
  • A majority are open to the idea of moving some responsibilities out of the police department to other city departments, particularly parking enforcement, bike/ped enforcement, and traffic enforcement. Support is consistent across racial groupings, and particularly strong among LGBTQ populations.
  • Many believe police making traffic stops can lead to unsafe encounters, and that people of color are more likely to be stopped than others. These perceptions are present across racial groups.
  • One in five worry about being harmed or treated unfairly during a stop. People of color, especially Black people, are particularly concerned about potential harm by police due to their race.
  • Nearly half have been impacted (themselves or their family) by mistreatment by someone in the community, but many fewer have been mistreated by police or other city employees.

Editor’s note: Berkeleyside, too, will review the data more closely. We have published the BerkDOT survey results today to ensure community members have access to this public information.

Featured photo: Emilie Raguso

Emilie Raguso is Berkeleyside’s senior editor of news. Email: emilie@berkeleyside.org. Twitter: emraguso. Phone: 510-459-8325.