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CARE NOT COPS
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Thursday July 1, 2021

Tuesday night the City Council passed a budget that is pro-police and anti-houseless

 

The City Council failed to defund the police. Instead they voted to increase the BPD budget. The people of Berkeley gave them every opportunity to do the right thing and they didn’t!

We in Copwatch, along with many community members, are outraged by the vote Tuesday night. Thank you to everyone who spoke up advocating for care and justice! The community clearly wants change. However, when it came to a vote, the City Council did not act in response to the community's overwhelming support for Care Not Cops. Either the City Council does not see the relationship between community health and safety, or they succumbed to pressure from police and from those who believe that we can simply "sweep" houselessness and poverty away. Either way, we will continue to fight to defund the police and refund our communities!


Our work continues!
We continue to demand structural change in how services are provided, who responds and how these calls for help are responded to. We will stay involved in these issues every day. In addition, we will continue to go on copwatching shifts, assert our rights, and challenge unjust practices with renewed inspiration and clarity about the kind of community in which we want to live.

Why CARE NOT COPS?

Kayla Moore was killed by the Berkeley Police in her own home during a "wellness check" in 2013 when she was experiencing a mental health crisis. The abuse and murder of people living with mental health disabilities at the hands of the police is tragic and commonplace. According to the Treatment Advocacy Center, individuals with untreated severe mental illness are involved in at least 1 in 4 and as many as half of all fatal police shootings.[1] We must end the criminalization and killing of people with mental health disabilities at the hands of the police.

Who can we call for help? Decades of austerity and failed policy has left us with police as first responders to mental health crisis, and jails and prisons as the largest "providers" of mental health services. Individuals cannot access long-term care, and when they need acute assistance, their need is met by police, who cause further traumatization.

 

In Berkeley, 35% or more of police calls for service are for people experiencing a mental health crisis, and even some officers claim that this is a drain on resources.[2] The City of Berkeley does operate a mobile crisis unit, but the unit is so underfunded that it does not operate Tuesdays or Sundays, nor after 10 pm. The mobile crisis unit is dispatched with the police, and the police control the scene. Moreover, the mobile crisis unit lacks the resources to arrive in a timely manner—or even to arrive at all. Many times police arrive at the scene, and mobile crisis shows up hours later after the individual is long gone.

We need to end the criminalization of mental illness. When police arrive to a mental health crisis, they bring fear, they bring force, and they are more likely to refer an individual to the criminal justice system than to the health services that they desperately need. Criminalizing mental health disability disrupts the road to recovery, and makes it more difficult to access employment and housing. It is expensive, ineffective, and inhumane.

What can we do about this? In July 2020, the Berkeley City Council voted to create a “Specialized Care Unit” (SCU) as an alternative to police in cases of mental health emergencies and non-criminal incidents. The new SCU is an opportunity for a mental health crisis response that does not involve the police, but we have to make sure that we do not repeat the mistakes of the mobile crisis unit. Read our demands.

 

We can make the SCU a viable alternative to the police, but we have to ACT NOW to intervene in the budget process. 

[1] https://www.treatmentadvocacycenter.org/overlooked-in-the-undercounted 
[2] https://www.berkeleyside.org/2015/04/16/mental-health-calls-are-1-drain-on-berkeley-police-resources

We held weekly Noise Demonstrations leading up to the 2022 Council Budget Vote on 6/29 to demand CARE NOT COPS

Press Conference 5/19

Watch more video from the weekly Noise Demos on our Youtube Channel

For context, watch Berkeley Copwatch's community forum on

Mental Health & Policing in Berkeley

 

We want IMPLEMENTATION of the

Specialized Care Unit (SCU)

 

The people of Berkeley need this service NOW. We refuse to accept that when we or our loved ones experience a mental health crisis, we will have no one to call to de-escalate the situation and provide support. There is no question that police are not the proper and safe response for this community need, they escalate situations and are a threat to people's lives. It's time to make a non-police response to mental health crises a reality in Berkeley.

The Network for CARE NOT COPS:

Berkeley Community Safety Coalition
Berkeley Copwatch
Berkeley Tenants’ Union
Cops Off Campus
Friends of Adeline
Latinos Unidos de Berkeley
South Berkeley Mutual Aid Project
The Suitcase Clinic
Where Do We Go? Berkeley

UC Berkeley's Office of External Affairs Vice President

Berkeley Federation of Teachers Officer's Council

Read the SCU Demands in Detail: