A message from UC Berkeley Police Chief Margo Bennett

Margo Bennett, chief of the University of California Police Department, Berkeley Campus, sent the following message to the campus community on Thursday:

On behalf of the entire UCPD community, I want to convey my profound condolences and sorrow to George Floyd’s family and friends, and to members of the Black community who have, for generations, been the victims of racism and senseless violence. We must persevere and work together to rid our institutions of disparities and discrimination that cause grievous harm to communities of color.

I encourage every UCPD officer and UCPD staff member to think about our unique mission and role on the Berkeley campus; our responsibility to serve, with compassion, humanity and sensitivity, a diverse community of students, staff, faculty, and visitors; and our obligation and honor to do everything in our power to earn the trust of the public we are here to protect. I am also asking that we pause and reflect on the power and importance of free speech – both to heal and to advance necessary change. We support everyone’s right to peacefully demonstrate and protest.

Our belief at UCPD is that the conduct of the Minneapolis officers involved in the death of George Floyd was reprehensible and inexcusable. What we saw on the video is inconsistent with our training and our values. There must be change, and we must all be a part of it. There must be fair and equal treatment for all. This tragedy has weighed heavily on my soul and in the hearts of my UCPD colleagues. Such unfettered disregard for life by a police officer makes me physically ill. It is beyond comprehension and I refuse to stand silent at this total lack of care for the value of human life. George Floyd by all rights and reason, should be alive and with his loved ones today. Instead they are mourning his loss. His death is senseless, horrid and cannot be accepted by members of the law enforcement community who value their service to our communities.

Last January, in a message to the campus community, I stated my commitment to, “ensuring that our officers collaborate with and are responsive to the community; that we educate citizens on how and why we police; that we use alternatives to enforcement when possible; and that we endeavor to understand and counter the racism that has corroded goodwill between police and communities of color.”

The killing of George Floyd at the hands of police officers has only strengthened our resolve to do what we must to build and sustain a department and a culture that recognizes and directly addresses issues of race, racism, and implicit bias; one that reflects the oath taken as law enforcement officers; and that aligns with the values we embrace as reflected in our Principles of Community.

In the time that has passed since that message to the campus community was sent, we have taken steps toward this goal. While these steps are but a beginning, we want to share them with you now to convey to our community that we will not be complacent and that we are committed to taking concrete actions to better serve our Black community. Specifically, we have launched a new effort devoted to community engagement; we have invited community representatives to participate in the hiring of new officers; we have worked to implement the recommendations from UC’s Presidential Task Force on Universitywide Policing, including supporting the establishment of an independent community advisory board; and we have asked external auditors to closely examine UCPD’s policies and procedures related to campus interactions. Their report will be made public once it is completed.

I understand and accept that there is room for change in our police department, and throughout our local and national judicial and law enforcement institutions. I will continue to move our police department toward a better, more meaningful relationship with the communities we serve. I am proud of how ready and willing our officers are to work with me to fulfill this essential commitment. When all is said and done, we are and must always be public servants, for all of the people, all of the time.