What are the police in Berkeley up to?
by Dave Welsh
Berkeley’s police are collaborating with some very unsavory federal police agencies. In the process, our civil rights and civil liberties have been put in jeopardy. Many joint police programs sprang into being nationally after 9/11 and the Patriot Act. Now a number of localities are having second thoughts about letting federal police put their “nose” under the local tent.
The mayor and City Council need to make a clean break from these intrusive federal or regional agencies with police authority.
- They need to sever all Berkeley police ties with Urban Areas Security Initiative and its Urban Shield urban warfare training and weapons expo – aimed at militarizing and increasing federal control over local police under Homeland Security (DHS). They need to call a halt to any BPD acquisition of materials under the Defense Department 1033 Program.
- They need to sever all BPD ties with the regional “intelligence fusion center” (NCRIC) and its domestic spying operation, coordinated nationally by the FBI and used locally to spy on activist groups such as Black Lives Matter.
- They need to order BPD not to ship immigrants off for booking to Santa Rita Jail, where County Sheriff Ahern has been cooperating with ICE’s brutal deportation program. They need to work with nearby cities to systematically resist Ahern’s racist policies.
Do we have “civilian control of the military” in Berkeley? Or do the FBI, DHS and BPD really call the shots?
Remember, the FBI is a national police force with a long, grim history of suppressing dissent, busting unions, conducting political witch-hunts, and disrupting the civil rights and Black liberation movements and the American Indian Movement organization, including assassinating, spying on and imprisoning their leaders.
Which side is Berkeley on? Do we really want to be part of a national police network headed by “America’s top cop,” the arch-racist attorney general, Jeff Sessions? The City Council needs to decisively sever Berkeley from a militarized surveillance state that is spreading its tentacles everywhere.
In the words of Councilmember Cheryl Davila, a staunch advocate of getting the police under control, it’s time to “Show some courage” and “Be a fearless city!”
Dave Welsh, a delegate to the San Francisco Labor Council and a retired letter carrier, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. This story first appeared on Workers World newspaper.