Update, April 12: The city’s Police Accountability Board is urging the City Council to pump the brakes on choosing a police chief. The council has a closed session scheduled during a special meeting Thursday afternoon to discuss “public employee appointments,” specifically chief of police and fire chief.
It is unclear what action, if any, the council could ultimately take at Thursday’s meeting. When Interim Chief Jen Louis was up for confirmation as permanent chief in November, the matter was scheduled for a vote of the council in an open session at a regular meeting, not a closed session at a special meeting.
But the fact that the council is moving forward at all, with Louis the presumptive candidate, has given the Police Accountability Board pause. “As you know, our board is currently investigating the allegations brought to light by former BPD Officer Corey Shedoudy,” John E. Moore III, the board chair, wrote to Mayor Jesse Arreguín and the members of the council in a letter Wednesday. The board has “identified several policy and practice areas that need to be addressed,” Moore wrote.
Original, April 7: The city’s two top public safety agencies, currently led by interim chiefs, may have new management next week — or, at least, new titles for their management.
The City Council has scheduled a special meeting Thursday to discuss two appointments in closed session — chief of police and fire chief.
Interim police Chief Jen Louis, now entering her third year at the head of the department, was poised for full confirmation last year before a pair of scandals — one related to possible misconduct in the department’s bike squad, the other to years-old allegations against Louis herself — put the confirmation in peril.
Louis’s predecessor, former Chief Andrew Greenwood, retired March 12, 2021, and Louis was immediately installed as interim chief.
Interim Fire Chief David Sprague has led the Berkeley Fire Department since June, when outgoing Chief Abraham Roman retired from Berkeley and took a deputy chief position with the San Rafael Fire Department.
In November 2021, an outside firm, Los Gatos-based William Avery and Associates, began recruitment for a new police chief, a $25,400 contract, according to city records.
It is unclear if the firm or the city interviewed candidates other than Louis.
The City Council was scheduled to vote on confirming Louis to the position permanently in November 2022.
On Nov. 10, five days before the scheduled vote, former police Officer Corey Shedoudy emailed texts purportedly shared between the department’s Downtown Task Force, and later its bike detail that appeared to show racially charged comments and derogatory remarks about homeless people from police Sgt. Darren Kacalek.
Shedoudy alleged that Kacalek had directed the unit to make 100 arrests a month, “using questionable legal tactics that included stop and frisk, probation searches with no reasonable suspicion of a crime, and a very loose interpretation of stay-away orders from UC Berkeley.”
City Manager Dee Williams-Ridley said at the time that Louis was unaware of the messages, or Shedoudy’s allegations that the bike unit had some form of quota system.
Shedoudy was fired in August 2021, just a few months after Louis moved from captain to interim chief.
Kacalek was put on paid leave following Shedoudy’s allegations and stepped down from his role as president of the Berkeley Police Association, the union that represents city officers.
The city hired an outside law firm, San Francisco-based Swanson and McNamara, to investigate the purported texts. It was not clear Friday whether that investigation had concluded.
In December, a report from the Los Angeles Times brought to light a 2017 sexual harassment complaint against Louis by a subordinate officer.
An investigator determined comments Louis had made violated the city’s policy on sexual harassment, according to the Times report.
Greenwood, still chief at the time, recommended a five-day suspension as discipline. Louis appealed that discipline to Wiliams-Ridley, who reduced it to a written reprimand for “unprofessional conduct.”
“The sexual harassment allegations made against me in 2017 were false,” Louis said in a written statement to Berkeleyside shortly after the Times report. “I was fully cleared five years ago after a thorough appeal hearing that included presentation of considerable witness evidence the investigator failed to include or obtain during his examination.”
City officials did not immediately say whether candidates other than Louis and Sprague are under consideration.
Through a spokesperson, the police department referred questions back to the city administration.
Sprague did not return a message requesting comment.
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