Campus & community, Campus news

Chancellor Carol Christ on reimagining public safety

"We can make some of these changes very quickly; others will take a longer," she writes

UC Berkeley Chancellor Carol Christ smiles at the camera
"As the first female chancellor of the top public university in the world, I am writing to you today because today’s decision by the Supreme Court is profoundly personal, alarming and distressing," UC Berkeley Chancellor Carol Christ wrote in a message to the campus community. (UC Berkeley photo by Brittany Hosea-Small)

Chancellor Carol Christ sent the following message to the campus community on Thursday:

I have been profoundly affected by what recent events have revealed about the state of race relations in our country and the indisputable evidence those events provide of police brutality. I hear the pain, anger, exhaustion, and calls for accountability that members of our community have shared with me in the many letters that I have received, and the many conversations I have had in recent weeks.

I agree with and support the efforts of individuals and organizations to accelerate and strengthen efforts to reexamine the role of police in society and reimagine alternative systems of community safety. Elements of our country’s law enforcement culture dehumanize some of the very people whose safety and wellness police officers are sworn to protect, especially the Black community.  Here, on campus, we know and have acknowledged that we can and must do better to find new approaches to policing and community safety.

I am writing now to share some initial steps that I have decided to take to achieve these goals. I have arrived at these decisions after careful consideration of statements from members of the community and conversations with campus administrators, faculty, students and staff, and with the leadership of the Independent Advisory Board on Police Accountability and Community Safety.

  • Joining many police departments across the country following the death of George Floyd, UCPD has banned the use of carotid holds.  We will work with the police and the community to identify additional policy changes to ensure that our use of force policies are as restrictive as possible within the context of University of California policy and the law. We want to shape our policies to fit our principles of community.

  • We acknowledge the harm that can be done by a militarized police force. In response to calls for demilitarization, we will review our tools and equipment to ensure that they are sufficient, but not excessive, for ensuring community safety.

  • We acknowledge that, over the years, the scope of law enforcement has grown, and it is time to re-assess it. We will focus the scope of police responsibilities on law enforcement, identifying opportunities to move responsibilities currently housed in the police department to other campus units, beginning with emergency management, Live Scan fingerprinting, access to buildings, and compliance with the crime reporting and transparency requirements of the Clery Act.

  • We will create a team of mental health professionals to serve as first responders in wellness checks and mental health emergencies in an effort to reduce the role of armed officers in non-criminal calls.

  • In order to make Sproul Hall an even more student-focused location, we will identify a site to which we will re-locate the police department. We recognize that this area, so close to the front door and heart of the campus, can be made more welcoming.

We can make some of these changes very quickly; others—such as the first responder program for wellness checks and mental health emergencies and the re-location of the department—will take a longer planning period during which we will work both with the Independent Advisory Board and with the Police Department.

I expect a report from the Independent Advisory Board at the end of the month that will contain further short and long term recommendations. I am committed to working with the IAB to identify new alternatives for a system of community safety that reduces the need for law enforcement. In determining our actions, we will work with members of the Black community, in particular Black students, to ensure that those in our community who are most affected by societal inequities, including structural racism and anti-Blackness, remain at the center of our conversations regarding police accountability and community safety.

Tomorrow is Juneteenth, the commemoration of the ending of slavery in the United States, and a call to action in determining how together we create a more just and equal society. My Cabinet and I know that the time has passed for incrementalism. The onus is on us. Our words must continue to result in action, and the campus administration, along with UCPD’s leadership and officers, must live up to these commitments. We will keep the campus community updated on our progress. We cannot rest until we are all satisfied that our institution and its constituent parts are free of racism, bias, and discrimination.