Councilmember Taplin Statement on Reimagining Public Safety in Berkeley

April 29, 2022


Last week, the City Manager’s Office presented a Reimagining Public Safety implementation plan with budget recommendations. This plan includes reinstating most deferred positions in the Police Department, as well as strengthening funding and institutional support for a Specialized Care Unit (SCU) and other community-based service models. I will be proposing some amendments and modifications to the City Manager’s proposed plan, including:

  • Incorporating the oversight and techical assistance for nonprofit service providers within the scope of a proposed Office of Racial Equity.
  • A Guaranteed Income pilot and employment program for formerly incarcerated individuals. 
  • A new Vision Zero analyst in the Public Works department to conduct a feasibility analysis of a non-sworn auxiliary traffic enforcement unit, including comprehensive analysis of any and all traffic violations and dangerous road behavior that may be safely addressed entirely by a civilian unit, as well as studying department structuring models to advance engineering-first solutions to traffic safety with a racial justice and social equity lens.
  • Consulting services for Priority Dispatch and call data analysis for Crisis Stabilization.

As a Black man born and raised in Southwest Berkeley, having lost friends and relatives to violence from a young age, I have followed the Reimagining process closely. I have also spoken with and observed other African American officials across the nation representing communities to which they too have deep roots and ties. African American Civil rights lawyer Dr. Nekima Levy Armstrong writes in her New York Times Op-Ed, Black Voters Want Better Policing, Not Posturing, of a paternalistic pattern where African-Americans heavily impacted by violence and crime speak up to say they don’t want to be left without critical safety resources, only to be shouted down and for their narratives to be co-opted and appropriated for other ideological agendas.

I believe we can do better here in Berkeley. We can build better public safety institutions that affirm each other’s valid needs and concerns, pursue outcomes based on evidence, and take care of our most vulnerable neighbors. Hardly a day goes by that I don’t hear from seniors, parents, and workers in District 2 about the need for more visible public safety resources in West Berkeley. I’m thrilled to see additional staffing resources in the City Manager’s proposal for community engagement officers, parking enforcement, and traffic enforcement–all of which District 2 residents have consistently requested. Good things can happen when our community has a seat at the table.

We must address everyone’s safety needs with the serious responses they deserve and with the appropriate professional expertise, including psychiatric crises that are so often ignored. Nobody in our community should be a guinea pig, and nobody should feel silenced or ignored. 

Our work to reimagine community safety here in Berkeley was never intended to do that. It was always about strengthening and transforming our systems and infrastructure to provide greater public safety, community health, and economic stability for our residents. That is my goal now, and it will remain my mission as a public servant.