‘Routine’ police panel meeting gets ‘Occupy’d’

The campus Police Review Board met Thursday night for a routine, regularly scheduled annual review of citizen complaints made against the UCPD from July, 1, 2010, through June 30, 2011.

The 75 or so students and supporters who packed the meeting room in the basement of Barrows Hall, though, wanted to talk about Nov. 9, 2011.

Students, some with gags over their mouths, hold protest signs or display YouTube videos from Nov. 9 as they wait for PRB members to arrive.

The result was 90 minutes of cross-talk, interruptions — often via Occupy movement-style “mic checks,” the signal for a chorus of voices to echo, two or three words at a time, comments from individual speakers — and a routine meeting that was anything but.

PRB chair Jesse Choper, a constitutional scholar and veteran Berkeley School of Law professor, told students he was “perfectly aware of the intensity of feeling that you have,” but that holding a discussion of last month’s clash between police and protesters was “not the task of this board” at Thursday’s meeting.

When he finally brought the official session to a close, roughly half his audience — which by then had voted to constitute itself as a “People’s Police Review Board” — stayed behind for a meeting of its own.

“I understand the concerns that many of you have about the events of Nov. 9,” said Choper, who now sits at the head of a panel charged by Chancellor Robert Birgeneau with investigating what happened that day. But talking about them before a process is in place for that investigation, he insisted, “would prejudice our fairness and impartiality.”


The students in the room, however — some of whom identified themselves as victims of police violence stemming from last month’s protests — were in no mood to wait. Holding signs that read “Disband UCPD,” “No cops on campus” and “No clubs on cubs,” they called repeatedly for the board to “hear our stories,” or to say when they would get their opportunity to tell them.

While Choper did say the PRB had been given a deadline of Jan. 31, 2012, to file a report to the chancellor, he explained that the panel was “still trying to identify a process” for its investigation, including when to hear testimony. UCPD Capt. Margo Bennett, the department’s representative on the board, promised that individual complaints would be handled before then.