Berkeley Abolitionist Lawyering Project

The purpose of this project is to support the work of Anti Police-Terror Project (APTP) through directed, legal-oriented research projects. This project is part of a larger interdisciplinary research effort to provide research-based recommendations to organizers who are on the frontlines of building community-led visions of safety, well-being, and justice in the Bay Area. As members of the SLP, law students will be contributing to key tasks related to this work. 

Housed in the Department of African American Studies at UC Berkeley, the project is led by James Burch, Anti Police-Terror Project (APTP) Policy Director and inaugural member of the City of Oakland’s “Reimagining Public Safety Task Force” and Professor Nikki Jones, Department Chair in African American Studies and Director of  the Abolition Democracy Initiative. The project is inclusive of an interdisciplinary working group of UC Berkeley student researchers and scholars in the School of Public Health, School of Social Welfare and the Othering and Belonging Institute who are committed to community-engaged research. The project leverages a diversity of skills to synthesize and share research-driven models for community safety without policing.

Our research agenda will be determined by, and responsive to, the needs of APTP, which is a Black-led organization. APTP has identified two projects for SLP members to work on this Spring. 

  1. Drafting Legislation to provide CA cities the right to re-assign authority over traffic violations to a non-police entity.

As it stands now, APTP believes that the City of Oakland does not have the authority to re-assign the power to issue traffic infractions and violations to an entity other than the police. To remedy this issue, SLP members will begin by drafting a legal memorandum explaining the state-law preemption issue that prevents the city from reallocating police power over traffic stops. Once the preemption issue is fully briefed, SLP students will draft a piece of legislation to be introduced the following year that will remedy the preemption issue and provide cities the right to handle traffic violations in whatever way they see fit. SLP students will also draft research memos and legislative fact sheets to support this legislation. 

       2. Supporting the implementation of of SB2: Police Decertification Bill 

In October 2021, Governor Newsom signed SB2: the Police Decertification Bill, which established a process to decertify law enforcement officers that have engaged in serious misconduct. SLP students will be conducting research to identify a list of officers eligible for decertification. This research will involve identifying officers named as a party in civil law suits, or officers that have been formally disciplined by any judicial proceeding or administrative body. Beginning with the Oakland Police Department, students will compile a list of officers eligible for decertification along with the findings associated with each officer. Upon completion of the Oakland Police Department, students will move on to other cities in the Bay Area and across the State of California. 

Supervision: Students will be directed by supervising attorney, James Burch. James Burch is also the Policy Director for Anti-Police Terror Project.

Time Commitment: The estimated number of hours per week is about 3-5, which would be about 40-60 hours over the course of a semester.

For more information, please contact the student leaders at abolitionistlawyering@berkeley.edu.