Berkeley Police Department in turmoil over leaked texts about arrest quotas
The Berkeley Police Department is embroiled in controversy after a number of its officers allegedly posted a series of racist and sexist comments about the diversity of the department’s ranks in Facebook messages. Police say the messages, which were leaked to the newspaper the American-Statesman, are in poor taste and were removed as soon as they were brought to their attention.
The police department has become the latest city agency to come under fire for possible racism after the release of the leaked messages.
“It would be a miracle for any police department, and certainly for anything in our country, to not see racism in any form,” said Michael P. Lynch, executive director of the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives.
“That’s not okay,” he said. “But what is happening in this case is the worst-case scenario.”
In an interview with the paper, Berkeley’s public information officer, Lt. Andrew Greenwood, said the messages were a misunderstanding of the work of police.
“We try to hold the line between what our police are supposed to do and what they are supposed to think,” Greenwood said.
He said his department’s officers are trained to focus on stopping and investigating crime, not writing comments on Facebook.
Greenwood said his department has seen its share of bad online comments for people it has arrested, but they are usually deleted. Police officers have been disciplined for comments posted online, but usually for violations of the civil rights of a person in the community, Greenwood said.
The leaked messages are just the latest in a series of public relations setbacks for Berkeley police, who are under intense scrutiny after the death of 25-year-old Oscar Grant, a black man who was fatally shot on a UC Berkeley campus in October.
“The police in Berkeley are under more pressure than ever in modern times,” Greenwood said.
“The last thing we need is for this to become a national issue,” he said.
At a City Council meeting this week, Mayor Jesse Arreguín said the city’s Police Commission will be reviewing the police department’s internal policies after the messages were made public. He said the commission will examine how the department defines violence, how officers handle sexual