Berkeley Coalition secures scrutiny of mutual aid agreements

The Coalition for a Safe Berkeley in Northern California is urging its city council to review several proposed agreements between the Berkeley Police Department and police agencies of other jurisdictions -- like Oakland, or the University of California -- that have recently violated the civil rights and liberties of their residents.  At a hearing this Tuesday night, the coalition shared its concerns, prompting coverage by the nightly ABC news, which made the hearing the subject of its lead story:

Late last year, the coalition succeeded in postponing the renewal of the city's mutual aid agreements -- pacts between law enforcement agencies to aid one another when need be -- with the University of California and Oakland police departments after incidents of police brutality at Occupy Oakland and Occupy Cal in the fall.  The Berkley coalition is arguing for aid agreements that provide safeguards, so that Berkeley police won't help other law enforcement agencies in abusing the civil rights of their neighbors.

“We want to engage in mutual aid that respects civil liberties,” said Berkeley City Councilor Jesse Arreguin. "We don't necessarily want our police to automatically respond, but very seriously evaluate whether we should respond and how we respond."

The reforms to the agreements have brought together many members of the community who were disturbed by the response towards Occupy Oakland, and are looking to ensure Berkeley law enforcement will not engage in similar activities.

"The things that I saw there," testified Francis Grinnon, of Veterans for Peace, "in terms of abuse of police authority, are not the things that members of the armed forces went into the service to defend and protect the constitution."

The work of the Coalition for a Safe Berkeley is an example of the grassroots organizing efforts happening around the country in response to the federal government's rising reliance on local law enforcement agencies to aid in the corrosion of civil rights. From Asheville, North Carolina, to San Francisco, California, residents are reclaiming their rights through local reforms.

Through BORDC's Local Civil Rights Restoration Campaign, people in any city or town can work to restore their constitutional rights that have been carved away at in the past ten years of fear mongering and inexcusable government abuses.  For instance, the Berkeley coalition is also seeking further measures to protect civil liberties and civil rights, including provisions that would: prohibit constitutionally protected and private information from being sent to government fusion centers; end the police department's participation in certain aspects of Secure Communities (S-COMM), by prohibiting the practice of holding suspected undocumented immigrants in local jails at the request of Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE); and achieve greater transparency into potential profiling, by documenting the racial impact of police activities.

The Coalition for a Safe Berkeley is advised by BORDC, and includes many of the city's human rights and civil liberties organizations, including the Berkeley Peace & Justice Commission, the NAACP, National Lawyers Guild, East Bay Sanctuary Covenant, Black Alliance for Just Immigration, CAIR-SF, Asian Law Caucus, National Network of Immigrant & Refugee Rights, and others.

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