Policing in the Shadows 

Over the years, the UC Berkeley Police Department has escaped scrutiny, despite evidence of racial profiling, biased policing, and a lack of oversight.

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In 2015, UCPD began reporting additional data in traffic stops, including vehicle tows and searches. Over three years, UCPD searched 34 Black drivers, 25 white, and 25 Latinx. It is unclear what prompted the disproportionate searches of Black drivers, what those searches yielded, or if they resulted in arrests. Of the 69 cars reportedly towed, 23 belonged to white drivers, 16 Black, 11 Asian, and 10 Latinx.

Campus statistics also show that Black and Latinx drivers are more likely to receive warnings from UCPD than white motorists, thereby raising questions about whether campus police are stopping drivers of color for no legitimate reason. UCPD was about two and a half times more likely to release Black motorists with warnings when compared to whites, and nearly twice as likely to give Latinx motorists a warning.

UCPD, however, did not report the city of residence of drivers, which makes comparing percentages of traffic stops by race with the city's demographics difficult.

Campus officers on foot and bicycle who contact pedestrians and other people not in vehicles have also overpoliced Black and Latinx people, according to the Express analysis of UCPD data received from through public records requests. From 2011-2013, UCPD was two times more likely to contact and cite Black non-motorists than whites. During those years, UCPD contacted 5,414 non-motorists. Fifty six percent were white, 20 percent Black, and 12 percent Latinx. UCPD issued 2,639 non-mover citations in those three years. African Americans received 21 percent of the citations. The university has yet to respond to the Express' public records request for pedestrian stop data from 2014 through 2017.

Despite UC Berkeley being home to multiple researchers with expertise in the field policing, the campus does not review its own policing data. In response to the Express analysis of UCPD's data, UC spokesperson Janet Gilmore wrote in an email, "Not only would the data need to be verified but it would also be important to bring context to the numbers to provide an accurate account of what is occurring."

Why doesn't UCPD analyze its own stop data? According to Gilmore, budget cuts have led UC police "to prioritize safety response over data analysis." She added that "the issue of potential implicit bias in law enforcement is a matter UCPD is very much aware of and addressing through training." Gilmore also said UCPD personnel participated in fair and impartial policing trainings in 2013 and 2014.

Although the city of Berkeley enjoys its liberal reputation, Black and Latinx residents have long claimed its police forces are racially biased. Incidents over the past five years seem to bolster those claims. Berkeley's city police force has faced increased scrutiny due to high-profile incidents such as the in-custody death of Kayla Moore in 2013, the jaywalking arrests of two recent Black graduates as well as a lawsuit resulting from police response to Black Lives Matter protests in 2014, and multiple reports confirming community complaints of racially biased policing.

Last year, a report by the Center for Policing Equity found Berkeley city police were six times more likely to pull over Black drivers. Berkeley police were also more likely to search Black and Latinx people compared to whites, and more likely to use force on Black people.

Although the two police forces frequently cooperate, Berkeley Police and UCPD are separate agencies. Yet despite the increased attention on Berkeley's municipal police, UCPD has mostly been operating in the shadows.

Last October, UC Berkeley campus police sent an alert describing an assault at People's Park. A man told police that three or four men jumped him. The description provided to police, highlighted in the email sent out to all students and staff read, "The victim described the suspects as: Three to four Black males."

That imprecise description raised the ire of many Black students.

Asad Rahim, a doctoral student in Cal's Jurisprudence and Social Policy program, emailed UC Police Chief Margo Bennett and Vice Chancellor of Equity and Inclusion Oscar Dubón Jr., raising concerns about the alerts. "Suspects are sometimes described in the vaguest of terms, with only their race and sex," Rahim said, adding that the vague emails contributed to Black students feeling ostracized on campus. "There is nothing useful in this description that is going to help members of the community identify the suspects (how are these "three to four black males" going to be distinguished from the hundreds of black male students who attend the school?)."

Referencing multiple campus surveys that reported that Black staffers and students feel disrespected and that they do not belong on campus, Rahim wrote, "Instead, what it will most likely do is inflame implicit biases that make community members suspicious of black men on campus."

The federal Clery Act of 1990 requires campuses to maintain and publish statistics of certain campus crime and publish timely warnings of specific crimes, like homicide and aggravated assaults. UC Berkeley uses the Nixle service to send out advisories and timely warnings about criminal and suspicious activity via text and email to subscribers.

Most of the alerts sent out last school year that contained racial descriptions also included estimated ages, hair and eye colors, or descriptions of clothing. However, a few emails provided only vague racialized descriptions, such as, "Four to five Black male juveniles (15-16 years of age), all wearing black hooded sweatshirts"; "A Black male, approximately 24 years of age, wearing a black shirt and blue jeans"; and "Unknown race male, 5'10" in height, with a thin build wearing a black jacket."


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