Berkeley’s talk about reimagining public safety, transparency, and police accountability is at risk. We must speak up now and stand for Berkeley’s values of justice, equity, inclusion and belonging.

Tell your council member today to postpone the promotion of Interim Chief Jen Louis until the investigations by the city manager and police accountability board are completed.

The city manager promised Berkeley residents and the City Council that the permanent hire of the highest position over law enforcement, the police chief, would be suspended until completion of the investigations by an independent law firm, Swanson and McNamara, and by the community-based Police Accountability Board. Neither investigation is complete.

Horrific, vulgar, racist and disturbing statements were freely shared between Berkeley police officers and likely occurred on Jen Louis’ watch as a commanding officer.  

Berkeley residents are entitled to constitutional policing, and officers who will be held to account for racist or other inappropriate behavior. The alleged quota promoted in the police texts illustrates that more than 150 officers under Louis’ command violated the law. Quotas are designed to target people of color. The police department is also guilty of excessive overtime and insensitivity to homeless people. It is a department tainted by bias, reflected in the texting scandal, and racially disparate treatment, as shown by stop data. 

Secondly, Alameda County Public Defender Brendon Woods publicly stated during the Berkeley City Council meeting on Nov. 14, 2022, that he had serious concerns about Louis’ promotion, given her ineffective leadership. Under her watch, BPD officers have consistently denied juveniles in detention their Miranda rights, according to Woods. Louis failed to respond to his formal letter of concern that these officers under her charge were violating the law.

Community trust in the chief has been eroded by Louis and officers under her command for failing to fully implement council mandates of Reimagining Public Safety and Fair and Impartial Policing. An example is the new policy eliminating pretextual stops for low-level offenses such as not wearing seatbelts or equipment issues. These stops are proven to lead to increased racial profiling. Louis’ new policy does nothing to limit these stops, which have not decreased.

Finally, Louis faces claims of inappropriate sexual references and misconduct against more than one officer. Former Police Chief Greenwood sustained some of these claims but was later downgraded and expunged by the city manager.  

Berkeley must get this right. Our community deserves to feel safe and secure from crime and unsupervised, abusive, untrained and reckless officers.  

Berkeley’s elected leaders must work to change the current culture of the police department. Berkeley’s reputation as a progressive city mandates a thoughtful and strategic approach to select a new leader for the police department. Council members who pursue a vote at this juncture would be making a hasty and premature decision. We are all looking forward to the results of the investigation. 

The law states negligent retention, hiring and supervision can be raised in court. Passage of this item Thursday would constitute “Negligent Promotion.” 

To express your concerns, plan to attend Thursday’s meeting at 3 p.m. in person in the Redwood Room on the sixth floor of City Hall, 2180 Milvia Street, or on Zoom. To join by phone,  call 1-669-254-5252 or 1-833-568-8864 (toll-free) and enter meeting ID: 161 801 7241.

Vote no. Do not appoint Jen Louis as Berkeley police chief.

Mari Mendonca is the current vice chair of Berkeley’s Housing Advisory Commission, a former Berkeley Rent Board Commissioner and candidate for Berkeley City Council; Michael McBride is pastor of The Way Berkeley and executive director of LiveFreeUSA, a program dedicated to ending gun violence. Michael Smith is a pastor at McGee Avenue Baptist Church in Berkeley and director of the Center for Food, Faith and Justice. George Lippman is a member of the Racial and Criminal Justice Reform, the Berkeley Progressive Alliance and author of  Racial Disparities in BPD Traffic Stops. Hector Malvido is co-chair of Latinos Unidos de Berkeley and was a member of the Mayor’s Fair and Impartial Policing Working Group. Moni T. Law is chair of the Berkeley Community Safety Coalition and served on the Mayor’s Fair and Impartial Policing Working Group.