Campus & community, Campus news

Re-envisioning community safety at UC Berkeley

Chancellor Carol Christ shared her plans in re-envisioning community safety at UC Berkeley Wednesday.

Sather Gate
UC Berkeley's Sather Gate (Photo by Peg Skorpinski)

Chancellor Carol Christ shared the following message with the campus community Wednesday:

In 2019 UC Berkeley established the Independent Advisory Board on Police Accountability and Community Safety (IAB) as an essential step toward re-envisioning community safety on our campus. It was a step that was as overdue as it was timely, given the horrific incidents in our country that preceded and followed the board’s creation.

I have no higher priority than ensuring every aspect of campus operations, particularly public safety, is consistent with, and supportive of our Principles of Community, racial justice, and our commitment that every single individual in our community feel a true sense of belonging. In each of these areas we will do better.

In that context, I am pleased to share with the campus community an update on the initial actions we launched in June to achieve these goals, as well as my administration’s response to the IAB’s extraordinarily thoughtful and comprehensive recommendations that accompanied the board’s first annual report. I have no doubt that their implementation, along with the impact of actions already underway, will support and accelerate our efforts to re-examine and re-envision all that we do to provide community safety, including the roles and responsibilities of UCPD. We have an opportunity to exert and embody national leadership in this important endeavor.

Our Response to the IAB Recommendations

I am grateful for the extent to which the IAB consulted and engaged with a wide, diverse range of individuals and organizations from across the campus. The board paid significant attention to the needs and interests of underrepresented communities in general, and members of the Black community in particular. It is for our friends and colleagues from these communities who have been most affected by social inequities, including structural racism and anti-Blackness, that we must, together, change our world, our country, and our campus. I am also grateful for the large number of campus community members who devoted significant time and effort in order to provide their feedback and thoughts about the IAB recommendations. I can assure you that your input played an important role in our deliberations and decisions.

I invite you to carefully review the list of recommendations and our positive responses to them. Individually and in the aggregate, they address an appropriately ambitious spectrum of issues and ideas: from better ways to facilitate community engagement and police accountability, to new training and education programs for our police department and members of our community, to reducing the scope of law enforcement responsibilities on campus.

To be clear, our response to these recommendations marks the beginning of an evolutionary process. Some changes can be made quickly, others will take extensive planning and the dedication of significant human and financial resources. As we proceed, I know that I, and my administration will, along with UCPD, be held accountable for meaningful progress toward our goals, continued transparency, timely communications, and constant adaptation based on what we learn and observe as changes are implemented.

Updating Actions Already Underway

Last June, in a message to the university’s community, I described a number of steps we would immediately take to reorganize parts of UCPD and reimagine public safety on and around the Berkeley campus. Here is a brief summary of where things stand:

  • Create a team of mental health professionals to serve as first responders: A cross-discipline campus group has been assigned to assess how best to provide an alternative dispatch service using our mental health professionals as first responders. A report with recommendations will be submitted and shared by the end of the academic year.
  • Identify a site for the relocation of UCPD: Space Management and Capital Strategies are investigating potential locations away from the center of campus for the relocation of UCPD operations. Once a suitable location is identified and approved, the transition will begin with a targeted completion during the 2022 academic year.
  • Focus the scope of police responsibilities on law enforcement, identifying opportunities to move responsibilities from the police department to other, more appropriate campus units:
    • The Office of Emergency Management has now been transferred from UCPD to the Vice Chancellor of Administration’s organization.
    • Live Scan Fingerprinting services will soon be available on Fourth Street and administered by the Berkeley Regional Services On-Boarding team. Additional locations will be identified in the future.
    • Security Technology Management is being moved out of UCPD to Facilities Services in conjunction with IST. This includes access management, metal keys, security cameras, and security alarms. Many campus buildings are in the process of being outfitted with electronic card access readers this fall. Five campus buildings have received card readers, an additional ten are scheduled for completion this semester.
    • Clery Act management and reporting is moving out of UCPD to the Civil Rights and Whistleblower Compliance unit in the Office of the Chancellor.
  • Ban the use of carotid holds by UCPD: The use of carotid holds was banned in June, 2020
  • Review tools and equipment used by UCPD to ensure that they are sufficient, but not excessive, for ensuring community safety. A review of UCPD’s inventory has been completed, and we can confirm that the department’s tools and equipment are standard law enforcement equipment and none of it is military-grade. Note: Two of the IAB’s recommendations relate to this issue, including the board’s request for a list of tools and equipment used by UCPD. Please see our response to those recommendations for additional information.

We are Changemakers

I am cognizant of the fact that a transition of the sort we seek is a complicated undertaking that must be managed carefully. I believe we can and will ensure community safety and the continued provision of UCPD’s essential emergency response capabilities in new and better ways that are consistent with our needs and values.

I believe that so long as there exist threats to our well-being, our rights, and our property, there is a need for public institutions dedicated to securing our safety. That, however, does not mean we must accept the status quo. That is not the Berkeley way. That is not how a community of changemakers operates. We can, together, work to improve and evolve the organizations, services, and programs that should be serving the greater good. We can ensure our institutions operate in a manner that embrace and embody equity, justice, humanity, and compassion for one and all. I do not believe these concepts – safety and true justice – are mutually exclusive any more than I believe that the current state of policing in this country is consistent with our highest values and aspirations. What I believe in is our ability to affect needed change, which is Berkeley’s purpose and passion.

I look forward to continued work and collaboration with every aspect and element of our community.