A Police Oversight Commission in Berkeley Must:
1. Be accessible to the people most affected by police violence:
a. The community must set the agenda for whatever agencies claim to work on its behalf. Therefore, to the maximum extent possible, the workings of the commission must be transparent to the community.
b. The commission must work to let people know that it exists, that community participation is welcome and that it will adapt its procedures to better include people who are poor, homeless, under-educated or marginalized, including people of color and immigrants.
c. The commission must conduct its business quickly and not allow the Berkeley Police to drag out its investigations until it is too late to discipline abusive officers. Deadlines must be realistic and account for the workload and resources that are dedicated to these purposes.
d. The commission must make boards of inquiry less intimidating by providing help to the complainant and providing an advocate who can help them prepare their complaint and case.
2. Be independent:
a. The City Manager must NOT have the power to overturn findings individually. A new ordinance must make the whole City Council take responsibility if they vote to overturn commission findings.
b. The commission must have independent counsel to provide legal opinions and engage in legal action on behalf of the city and the commission where appropriate. The City Attorney cannot simultaneously be responsible for protecting the city from liability and possibly exposing it to liability through boards of inquiry. Independent counsel is critical.
3. Be powerful and adequately funded:
a. The commission must have the power to investigate police-related deaths or injuries independent of a specific complaint or complainant. The commission must have enforceable subpoena power to compel compliance with the Public Records Act and other authorities.
b. The commission must have adequate resources to actually conduct investigations and not simply do critiques of police investigations.
c. The commission must do its own investigations by actually looking for witnesses, interviewing witnesses, documenting evidence and creating a case on behalf of the complainant.
d. The commission must be able to recommend discipline and hiring and firing of officers in cases where it is appropriate and where it is allowed by law.