But while the number of cops has gone down, Berkeley’s population has gone up - from 108,000 in 1999 to 121,000 today. The city continues to grow in size, with new apartment buildings and businesses being built, while the Police Department grows smaller.
The math is simple. 12% more residents + 35% fewer cops = slower response times and serious consequences for public safety.
Are you having trouble finding a Berkeley Cop? That's because Berkeley has 75 fewer cops compared to 18 years ago - despite 13,000 more people moving in to the city.
Every police department in the country is affected by anti-law enforcement sentiment and Berkeley PD is no different. The national climate influences local elected officials and affects the support they give to the police. Just this year, twenty six officers have left the department for other opportunities and more are on their way out. How can we stop the current exodus of officers who are leaving Berkeley for other agencies and opportunities?
Absolutely not. In 2016, Berkeley cops responded to 78,000 incidents, conducted over 3,200 arrests, issued 5,600 citations and reported only 32 uses of force. Berkeley cops are well-trained professionals who approach their work with empathy, compassion and care.
Berkeley cops are leaving because the police department and public safety aren't a priority for the City Council. For years, BPD has lost funding and support for its specialized units, including the Bicycle Unit, Traffic Bureau, Community Services Bureau, Drug Task Force and Special Investigations Unit. These units had the ability and specialized training to delve deep into community problems and look for long term solutions. That expertise and focused attention is now lost, and the City Council has no plan to get it back.
BPD was once considered a model for crisis intervention training. Officers routinely respond to calls involving individuals suffering from mental health crisis. Years ago, BPD recognized the importance of Crisis Intervention Training and added a full time position for a “Crisis Intervention Training Officer” (CIT Officer). This position was filled by an officer who spent time setting up training and collaborating with mental health workers on how to best serve the public. The entire department was trained on crisis intervention. Due to the staffing crisis, however, the CIT position was cut. Now, the program must be facilitated by an officer as an ancillary duty, which means that in addition to their regular duties, they must take on the responsibilities of what once was a full time position. As of now the duty remains unassigned. The quality, timeliness and sensitivity of BPD's crisis intervention service will suffer as a result.
The Office of Traffic Safety (OTS) ranks Berkeley as #1 for the past five years for traffic collisions involving pedestrians and bicycles when compared to fifty-seven other cities with similar populations. The Traffic Bureau’s Fatal Accident Response Team (FAIT) responds to traffic collisions, fatal accidents and homicide investigations. These officers train together to respond, day or night, when needed to reconstruct scenes and complete serious injury or fatal DUI collision investigations. Due to the staffing crisis, the Chief anticipates cuts to the Traffic Bureau in March. This means less traffic officers to conduct targeted enforcement, such as monitoring intersections with a history of pedestrian violations. It also means the FAIT team won’t be available to respond immediately to homicide or fatal accident scenes which could result in a less detailed investigation.
BPD has NO gang task force, NO drug task force, NO special investigations unit, NO canine officers, NO bicycle officers, NO DARE officers, NO in vehicle dash cameras and NO tasers. BPD will also be losing its Traffic Officers and one Community Services Officer in the upcoming months. These specially trained officers will be moved from their unit to the Patrol Division due to low staffing.
The Detective Division has been understaffed for years. Consider that in 2006, Youth Services was staffed with 3 School Resource Officers, 3 Youth Services Detectives, 1 Youth Services Sergeant, and 1 citizen Youth Counselor - 8 people working on the problems and the concerns regarding our Berkeley youth. Now, that same unit operates with only two Detectives. You cannot cut resources and still provide the same level of service.
BPD is no longer competitive in hiring. Most neighboring departments offer incentives to prospective officers, including opportunities to work in specialized investigative units, such as a drug or gang task force. They offer the opportunity to work as a canine officer, a bicycle officer or as a traffic officer. They have the industry standard tools such as in dash cameras, body cameras and tasers. Some departments offer housing incentives so officers can live in the city they work in, and in addition many offer hiring bonuses.
BPD offers NONE of those.
With fewer applicants and more officers leaving, BPD will be forced to lower its hiring standards. BPD prides itself on having professional, educated, compassionate and diverse officers. That standard is no longer viable, and lower standards have consequences.
I am writing as a concerned citizen of Berkeley, in regards to the current status of the Berkeley Police Department. Yesterday, as I was driving past Sacramento and Dwight Way, I saw a billboard posted with a website address: WheresMyBerkeleyCop.com . I was curious and went to the website later that day, and read about the decline in funding and numbers of police officers available for special task forces and patrols.
I was born and raised in Berkeley, and in the past, have found the city’s police department to be very reliable. There have been a number of times when I called the police as a concerned citizen, with matters as simple as a neighborhood noise complaint, to more serious issues like concerns about domestic disputes in my area. Officers have always arrived within five minutes of my calls.
Sometime in the last two years, I witnessed an arrest taking place, and stopped to record the arrest on camera with my smartphone. This was during a period of major violations of citizens’ rights taking place across the country – reports seemed to be happening weekly about citizens being killed by police during arrests and while in detention. The arrest I witnessed in Berkeley involved at least four officers, and none of them bothered me during the entire time I was recording the events. In fact, one of your Lieutenants, Lt. Andrew Rateaver, was present and patiently explained to me the process that was happening, and he was surprised that I commented on my ability to record the arrest without being disturbed. This is an example of the kind of police department that most citizens want in their communities – those who are not afraid to be recorded doing their jobs, and those who take time to talk to ordinary citizens.
I am a preschool teacher, and very concerned with the development of our future generations, and their safety. Several years ago, on the street where I live (8th Street in Berkeley), a young man was shot in the back while running away from a gang-related dispute. This event was extremely tragic and disturbing, so it is also disturbing to read that funding for BPD no longer allows for specialized task forces to deal with gang violence in our city, and that many other task forces have been cut, due to budgets. Furthermore, I hear the police sirens in the city every day, signifying that there is a daily (and nightly) need for officers on patrol. The BPD associate has mentioned on this website that the numbers of trained officers have been in decline, and appear to be continuing that trend.
Residents and employees of the City of Berkeley take pride in many things: We have the number one rated public university in the world! I have had the privilege of attending U.C. Berkeley and also witnessed the professional, non-violent manner in which the police department monitors activists’ protests on and around campus. We consider our city to be one of the most tolerant and embracing of every kind of diversity group that speaks out for acknowledgement and rights. We like to think of ourselves and progressive when it comes to ecology and environmental issues, and we are the birthplace of the “Free Speech Movement”.
While you are budgeting for things like electric vehicles for city employees, youth programs, small business assistance, community gardens, and other programs and venues that continue to support these ideals, please don’t fail to budget for the protection of all of this, and us. Police officers, like teachers, are doing their jobs because they have a calling to serve and protect the community, not because they are looking for the top dollar. However, it is also people who are in our professions who frequently get underpaid for our valuable contributions to society. The BPD association’s website mentions that recruiting and retaining trained officers is difficult, when the pay and benefits aren’t commensurate with what other police departments can offer, and other types of jobs in the employment sector. They’ve gone as far as to create a website and billboards (a brilliant idea, in my opinion) to get this message out to the community. I am one example of how this strategy has worked, and the fact that citizens of Berkeley do take this message seriously. Where are my Berkeley cops? I fear the day when I will need them, and they won’t be available, due to understaffing. Please don’t let this day come for me, or for any of the citizens of the beautiful city of Berkeley. Please take their message and my letter seriously.
With all due respect, and from one neighbor to another,
[A Berkeley Resident]
Let the Mayor and City Council know you support the hard-working professionals in the Berkeley Police Department. Give them a call or send an email. If they cannot support our Berkeley police officers, we cannot support them!
SEND AN EMAIL TO THE MAYOR
AND CITY COUNCIL AT
Mayor Jesse Arreguin 510.981.7100 mayor@CityofBerkeley.info
District 1 Linda Maio 510.981.7110 lmaio@CityofBerkeley.info
District 2 Cheryl Davila 510.981.7120 cdavila@CityofBerkeley.info
District 3 Ben Bartlett 510.981.7130 bbartlett@CityofBerkeley.info
District 4 Kate Harrison 510.981.7140 kharrison@CityofBerkeley.info
District 5 Sophie Hahn 510.981.7150 shahn@CityofBerkeley.info
District 6 Susan Wengraf 981.7160
District 7 Kriss Worthington 981.7170 kworthington@CityofBerkeley.info
District 8 Lori Droste 510.981.7180 ldroste@CityofBerkeley.info
The Mayor and all Council members can also be reached by mail at:
2180 Milvia Street, Berkeley, CA 94704
For more information regarding
the City Council go to https://www.cityofberkeley.info/citycouncil/