SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — After hours of emotional public testimony and a middle-of-the-night vote by Berkeley leaders, the progressive California city is moving forward with a novel proposal to replace police with unarmed civilians during traffic stops in a bid to curtail racial profiling.
The City Council early Wednesday approved a police reform proposal that calls for a public committee to hash out details of a new Berkeley Police Department that would not respond to calls involving people experiencing homelessness or mental illness. The committee also would pursue creating a separate department to handle transportation planning and enforcing parking and traffic laws.
The council voted for the committee to find ways to eventually cut the Police Department’s budget by half and approved an analysis of police calls and spending.
A tired but excited Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguin said he doesn’t expect a new transportation department overnight because conversations will be hard and detailed with complicated logistics to figure out. But he said communities of color in his city feel targeted by police and that needs to change.
“There may be situations where police do need to intervene, and so we need to look at all that,” he said. “We need to look at if we do move traffic enforcement out of the Police Department, what does that relationship look like and how will police officers work in coordination with unarmed traffic enforcement personnel?”