PUBLIC SAFETY & DISASTER RESILIENCE

Everyone deserves to feel safe in Berkeley.

Berkeley Firefighters

Our community relies upon a large network of firefighters, paramedics, mental health professionals, community service providers, and police officers to ensure health and safety in our community.

However, this network is at risk of deterioriating. With dozens of unfilled police and fire positions, applications for openings at a historic low, and 80% of police officers considering leaving the force, our public safety network is in jeopardy.

At the same time, we're seeing increasing demand for service as new residents, housed and unhoused alike, place more strain on our firefighters; and double-digit increases in violent crime require police officers capable of intervening safely in dangerous situations. In just the last year, our community has grappled with headlines such as:

The root causes and motivators of crime are complex, and while it's important we continue working to ensure nobody is pushed into crime for economic, drug addition, or mental health reasons, we ultimately rely upon our police officers to respond to incidents of violence in our community.

Our police department is currently short-staffed. Despite budgeting for 180 officers, the department has nearly two dozen vacancies. Recruitment challenges mean our community is without a drug task force or dedicated foot or bike patrols, leaving community members and neighbors at risk.

Meanwhile, our firefighters are handling a continually increasing volume of calls without adding additional capacity. Alta Bates hospital is slated for closure, and keeping it open requires finding resources to ensure it will survive a major eartquake.

Current Challenges

Our first responders have been ill-served by the incumbent in District 4. According to the Berkeley Police Association, the incumbent City Councilmember "...has made no effort to seek input from law enforcement and [has] supported policies that de-professionalize and demoralize the department." These policies "...would put unqualified activists in charge of core police functions, remove critical emergency training and place neighbors at risk of property damage."

As District 4 neighbor Eric Friedman wrote, "We have the funding to staff up. What we lack are elected officials who are committed — in word and in deed — to fostering a professional setting where today’s top talent wants to work. Officers have choices, like everyone else in this very tight labor market, and like all of us they want to work in places where they are supported and where their professionalism and dedication are respected."

For firefighters, Berkeley lacks adequate training facilities and has yet to modernize our dispatch center. We need to revisit how we dispatch our first responders, to ensure we're sending the right resources to the right calls. Without better resource allocation, our first responders will be unable to deal with increasing call volume in coming years.

Ben’s Solutions

Ensuring public safety in our community and our neighborhoods

As a member of the Police Review Commission, I worked with the community and our police officers to ensure effective police oversight. As a legislative aide, I attended police trainings and saw Berkeley Police Department practice their de-escalation and anti-bias techniques. As your Councilmember, I'll continue to ensure effective oversight while supporting our first responders in protecting every member of our community

Policy goals: Reducing violent crime in our Downtown and improving public safety for all community residents.

How we get there:

  • Work with our first responders to identify and resolve recruitment challenges.
  • Advocate for improved training resources and up-to-date protective equipment for all police and fire employees.
  • Ensure emergency health services are available and sufficient to address community needs, freeing up police & firefighter resources to focus on more critical emergencies.
  • Modernize our dispatch center to ensure proper response to emergencies - fire trucks when there's a fire, EMTs or paramedics when there's a medical issue.
  • Work to ensure police accountability and oversight through body cameras and dash cams.
  • Continue working with the Center for Police Equity to identify and address biases in policing, supporting our first responders in achieving the lowest rates of disparity in the country and lowering them further.
  • Work with stakeholders to identify and implement best practices in police oversight through an independent, professional police auditor's office to ensure effective oversight.
  • Ensure Berkeley’s earthquake shelters are appropriately retrofitted for earthquake safety. Continue the progress made on undergrounding of power lines.
  • Proactively reach out to Sutter to identify challenges associated with retrofitting Alta Bates to comply with earthquake safety regulations, and collaborate to identify funding sources and alternatives to closure.
  • Support the neighborhood-based Community Emergency Response Teams (CERT), helping to spread the word and encourage involvement to ensure neighborhood resilience in the event of disaster.

Why this works: Our first responders are held to high standards, and they have historically excelled at performing the demanding jobs we ask of them in ways that provide safety and security for all members of our community. This is a track record to build off of and support, and working collaboratively to ensure they have training and resources while ensuring fair and professional oversight will help continue that success.

Got additional suggestions? Let me know here, or email me at ben@bengould.org!