Berkeley council votes to change police booking photo policy

BERKELEY (BCN) The Berkeley City Council has voted by a narrow 5-3 margin to approve a resolution that orders the city's Police Department not to post photos of people arrested at protests unless they pose an immediate threat to the public's safety.

Councilwomen Cheryl Davila and Kate Harrison proposed changing the Police Department's photo policy after the department released mugshots of anti-fascist counter-protesters who were arrested at an anti-Marxism rally in Berkeley on Aug. 5.

Davila and Harrison wrote in a letter to the council that conservative news outlets publicized the names of the people who were arrested at that rally "to foment attacks against those who speak out against 
racism and fascism."

Davila and Harrison alleged that by issuing the mugshots and names and addresses of those who were arrested the Police Department "contributed to 'doxing' people -- publishing personal information to be used to harass and threaten people at their homes and places of work."

Davila and Harrison also said Berkeley should resist Public Records Act (PRA) requests for arrest photos and identifying information on people who have been arrested when doing so poses a risk to their safety as a result of threats against them.

Their proposal did nothing to limit the restrictive policy to protest events.

Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguin joined Davila and Harrison in expressing concern about the department's policy but at Tuesday night's meeting he offered a revised resolution limiting the new policy to arrests during First Amendment events, such as protests.

Arreguin said in a letter to the council that he doesn't want the city to resist PRA requests because "the city currently has the power to withhold this information if there is a concern that its release will 
endanger a person."

After a lengthy debate the City Council approved a motion by Councilwoman Sophie Hahn that was similar to Arreguin's proposal in limiting the policy to barring photos from arrests at First Amendment events.

Hahn, Arreguin, Linda Maio, Lori Droste and Susan Wengraf voted for that proposal and Harrison, Davila and Ben Bartlett voted against it. Kriss Worthington was absent.

Arreguin's spokeswoman Karina Ioffee said today that the mayor didn't support the original proposal by Harrison and Davila because it was "too broad" and might have completely barred the Police Department from releasing photographs of suspects.

But Harrison noted today that the original proposal would have allowed police to release photos of people who pose an immediate threat to the public safety of the community, such as being wanted for serial rape, homicide or felony assault.

Harrison said she voted against the revised policy because it was "a significant change" from the original proposal.
       
  
       

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