BPD has put a sergeant accused of sending derogatory text messages to officers under his command on administrative leave. File photo: Kelly Sullivan

The Berkeley Police Department has put a sergeant accused of sending derogatory text messages to officers under his command on administrative leave.

City leaders have pledged to launch an independent investigation into the text messages purportedly sent by Sgt. Darren Kacalek, and into a former officer’s allegation that Kacalek pressured units he oversaw to meet “arrest quotas.” Kacalek also stepped down this week from his position as president of the Berkeley police union.

In a statement late Wednesday, Berkeley spokesman Matthai Chakko confirmed City Manager Dee Williams-Ridley had put Kacalek on leave.

On Tuesday night, city officials delayed a vote to appoint a new police chief amid the fallout over the leaked text messages and quota allegation.

The City Council was poised to hire Interim Chief Jen Louis as the Berkeley Police Department’s permanent leader. But local advocates and community leaders, including the city’s Police Accountability Board, called for the council to postpone that vote after the text messages were brought to light on Monday.

Berkeley police bike patrol officers
Berkeley police Sgt. Darren Kacalek, center, stands with members of the department’s Bike Detail. Credit: BPD

Several hours into Tuesday’s council meeting, Williams-Ridley — who had initially told the council she did not believe there was a need to pause Louis’ hiring — pulled the appointment from the agenda. Williams-Ridley said she made the change “in light of the community concerns that we’ve heard tonight and over the last few days.”

Former Berkeley police officer Corey Shedoudy, who was fired last year, alleged in an email to members of the City Council last Thursday that Kacalek created “arrest quotas” focused on unhoused residents for members of department’s Downtown Task Force and Bike Detail. Shedoudy also sent screenshots of text messages sent in 2019 and 2020 by a person identified as Kacalek making comments that have been roundly condemned as dehumanizing homeless and Black residents.

Williams-Ridley said she plans to bring Louis’ appointment back to the council once the independent investigation into Shedoudy’s allegations and the leaked messages has been completed, in an effort to “do everything that we can to ensure public trust, especially in this appointment.”

Berkeley’s Police Accountability Board also took initial steps toward launching its own investigation during a special meeting Tuesday afternoon.

Louis has said she was not aware of Shedoudy’s allegations or the leaked messages until he contacted the council last week. Before becoming interim chief in 2021, Louis was the captain of the department’s support services division; the Bike Detail and Downtown Task Force were part of a separate operations division.

A headshot of Berkeley Police Chief Jen Louis
Interim Berkeley Police Chief Jen Louis. Credit: City of Berkeley

The Police Accountability Board voted during its meeting Tuesday to send a letter to the City Council urging that it postpone Louis’ appointment. Outgoing Vice Chair Nathan Mizell, who will soon be appointed to the Rent Board, had pushed for even stronger action to subpoena police records around the allegations, but the commission chose to wait to initiate a formal investigation.

“[The] interim chief and I have not been best friends … but this is not about us, it’s about how this system is supposed to work,” Mizell said, calling for all video and documented evidence surrounding the alleged police behavior.

During public comment for the Police Accountability Board’s meeting, about 20 people voiced their support for an investigation into the department and union; more speakers gave comments at the City Council meeting. Mansour Id-Deen, president of the Berkeley NAACP, told the board the allegations were representative of decades of similar concerns raised by his organization.

“There’s no way we can have a new police chief under this kind of atmosphere,” Id-Deen said, at least before an investigation is completed. “We need someone we can trust.”

The Berkeley Scanner first reported Tuesday that Kacalek has stepped down from his leadership position in the Berkeley Police Association.

The Berkeley Police Association released a statement Wednesday morning, saying they “support the city’s call for an independent and thorough investigation.”

“We are disturbed by the alleged texts by BPA president Darren Kacalek,” said Sgt. Scott Castle, vice president of the Berkeley Police Association in the statement.

“We want the public to know that messages of this type are not reflective of the entire body of officers who work night and day to protect the citizens of Berkeley.”

Castle said Kacalek requested and was granted a leave of absence. Kacalek has not responded to inquiries from Berkeleyside.

This breaking news story has been updated since its first post.

Nico Savidge joined Berkeleyside in 2021 as a senior reporter covering city hall. Born and raised in Berkeley, he got his start in journalism at Youth Radio as a high-schooler in the mid-2000s. Since then,...

Supriya Yelimeli is a housing and homelessness reporter for Berkeleyside and joined the staff in May 2020 after contributing reporting since 2018 as a freelance writer. Yelimeli grew up in Fremont and...