As the Director of Police Accountability in the City of Berkeley, I am honored to commemorate the 50-year anniversary of the passing of the ordinance that established civilian oversight of the Berkeley Police Department. This milestone is a testament to the commitment of our community to ensuring that our police department operates in a manner that is accountable, transparent, and just.
Over the past five decades, we have faced both challenges and victories in our efforts to establish a system of civilian oversight that truly serves the needs of our community. However, through it all, we have remained steadfast in our belief that accountability work is not only necessary, but vital to the health and wellbeing of our city.
As we reflect on the history of police oversight in Berkeley, it is important to recognize that the struggle for civilian oversight is not unique to our community. Across the country, people have been fighting for decades to establish meaningful systems of police accountability, and the challenges we face in Berkeley are just a microcosm of the broader struggle for justice and equity in America.
Despite these challenges, we have made great progress over the past 50 years. We have established a model for police oversight that is often looked to as a national standard. We have implemented a system of accountability that holds our police officers to the highest standards of conduct and ensures that they operate in a manner that is consistent with the values of our community.
Of course, this progress has not come without its share of difficulties. We have faced obstacles and setbacks, and we have learned from our mistakes. We have had to confront uncomfortable truths about ourselves and our community, and we have had to make difficult decisions about how to move forward. But, through it all, we have remained committed to the principles of accountability, transparency, and justice that are at the heart of our work.
I want to take this opportunity to thank the members of our community who have contributed to the establishment of civilian oversight in Berkeley over the past 50 years. Your tireless advocacy and commitment to justice has made all the difference, and we are grateful for your support.
Specifically, I would like to acknowledge and thank all of the community members who have served as commissioners, board members, subcommittee volunteers, and staff for both the Police Review Commission and now the Police Accountability Board and Office of the Director of Police Accountability. Your dedication, expertise, and commitment to the principles of accountability and justice have been instrumental in the success of our civilian oversight system. Without your hard work and tireless advocacy, we would not be where we are today.
I also want to thank the dedicated police officers who are committed to constitutional policing practices and serving and protecting the community. We recognize that there are many police officers that are honorable and committed to serving their communities with integrity, and we appreciate their efforts to uphold the law and maintain public safety.
In addition, I would like to acknowledge the city councilmembers and mayors (past, present and future) who have and will continue to support civilian oversight in the City of Berkeley. Your leadership and commitment to the values of accountability and justice have been essential in the establishment and maintenance of our civilian oversight system. We are grateful for your support and for the vision you have brought to this important work.
In closing, let us all remember that the work of police oversight is ongoing. We must remain committed to the principles of accountability, transparency, and justice, even in the face of adversity. And we must never forget that our ultimate goal is a more perfect union, where all people are treated with the dignity and respect they deserve. Thank you for your commitment to this important work, and may we continue to strive towards a brighter and more just future for all.
Hansel Alejandro Aguilar is Director of Police Accountability in the City of Berkeley.