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Berkeley PD: We Need Answers

Photo: Torched side of the building at The Way Christian Center in Berkeley.

On July 30, an as-yet-unnamed Berkeley police officer fired a gun in response to an alleged in-progress robbery. The department released a statement that no one was injured by gunfire, but how can we be sure that no one was injured if the subjects were not detained and there has been no substantial release of information with the ongoing investigation. Are we to take the BPD’s word on this?

In spite of public records requests filed regarding the shooting, BPD has not yet released any further information on the incident at this point, two weeks later. The department has not released the name of the officer, and failed to mention that the individuals who were shot at were Black. We only know the race of the individuals from a segment of radio transcript released by a local reporter.

Unfortunately, we are seeing a pattern of lack of transparency emerge. The day before, on July 29, multiple trash cans were set on fire in the parking lot of The Way Christian Center, causing scorching to the side of the building. The Way is an African American church that has advocated for police reform, transformative justice, and the Black Lives Matter movement. Recently, Pastor McBride of The Way has advocated for the removal of Chief Greenwood due to his comments about shooting protesters in response to a tear gas ban, as well as the department’s ongoing lack of accountability. The arson occurred shortly after the church put up a large Black Lives Matter banner outside the building. In spite of the long history of arson of Black churches as a tool of racist terror, the department has refused to investigate the incident as a hate crime. In fact, the Chief did not even dignify Pastor McBride with a phone call, and the incident report receipt was left by an officer under the door of the church.

The common lack of urgency and transparency from BPD in these two cases is alarming. The department claims there is insufficient evidence to call the arson a hate crime, but we have to wonder, what evidence does BPD need? Burning crosses? A Black church was intentionally set on fire, which has huge historical significance. How can BPD be so quick to rule out the possibility that it was racially motivated?

In both cases, the department is using their monopoly on information to selectively reveal whatever information they choose. They are not accountable to the public.

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