My child Seth Smith was killed in South Berkeley. I miss everything about him every single day.

We don’t want any parent or child or community to have to go through the trauma of gunshots in their neighborhood. 

There is a lot to be concerned with in our nation. In the midst of this right-wing backlash, we are fortunate to live in California. But even in Berkeley, gun violence is still prevalent, and Black and Brown community members are disproportionate victims of gun violence. And the dreadful recent Supreme Court decision dramatically increasing people’s ability to carry hidden weapons will put more guns on our streets. 

At the same time, we are in the middle of long-overdue police reforms but I fear recent policy changes have made Berkeley more dangerous. For example, Berkeley is now the only city in the region (and likely all of California) that has adopted certain restrictions on police conducting searches of individuals who have been convicted of violent offenses and have agreed to search terms as a condition of their early release from prison.

Recently, the police supervisor in charge of sex crimes vividly recounted how a dangerous child molester in South Berkeley now stands on equal footing as a regular resident with regard to searches. Thankfully, Councilmembers Lori Droste and Terry Taplin are attempting to remedy this unforeseen consequence. 

Unfortunately, the Police Accountability Board denounced this effort. On May 24, board member Kitty Calavita even went so far as to drag my son into a political conversation by erroneously claiming that she knew elements of the criminal investigation and that the murderer of Seth was searched and caught due to reasonable suspicion. He was not. This is outrageous, to say the least. 

I strongly believe in rehabilitation and giving individuals a fresh start from prison. I also believe that if a court has agreed that the individual poses a significant risk for violence and the released individual has agreed to enhanced searches as a condition of his release, our police officers should be able to conduct such searches. Berkeley does not need to stand alone as the only city in California that prohibits police from doing so.

I have seen a glimmer of hope as Mayor Jesse Arreguin and Councilmember Harrison have now course-corrected and have said that those convicted of sexual offenses can be searched but it doesn’t go far enough. There are other dangerous individuals who upon their release conditions need to be monitored by police. BPD should not be in the position of having to suddenly second guess judges’ rulings or the agreements that individuals voluntarily made to be released from prison.

Please write to and ask them to pass Droste’s policy 311 revisions to prevent future tragedies from occurring.

Michelle Rode-Smith is the mother of Seth Smith, a 19-year-old UC Berkeley student who was fatally shot in 2020.