The Boalt Police Review Project (BPRP) assists in the representation of civilians who file complaints with the Berkeley Police Review Commission, alleging misconduct by the Berkeley Police Department. The Commission provides a forum for the investigation and adjudication of complaints. Commission staff investigates the complaints, and three members of the Commission comprise each Board of Inquiry (BOI). Students advocate for the complainant at the Board of Inquiry hearing. The students’ work entails reviewing the complaint and some of the evidence collected by the Commission, interviewing the complainant, communicating with the Commission to submit any new evidence and witnesses, preparing the complainant for the hearing, and appearing on behalf of the complainant at the hearing. At the hearing, students present an opening statement, a direct examination of the complainant, and a closing statement. Students also may make objections to officers’ cross-examination of the complainant, and raise procedural questions. After the hearing, the BOI makes findings on the allegations.
The Berkeley Police Review Commission is an independent civilian oversight agency created by Berkeley voters in 1973. The nine member commission is appointed by members of the City Council and the Mayor. Any person directly affected by alleged Berkeley police misconduct may file an individual complaint. The types of individual complaints are: improper arrest, search, seizure, or stop; improper or inadequate investigation; improper detention procedures; improper police procedures; excessive force; discrimination; harassment; and discourtesy. The Commission seeks to reaffirm the value of civilian oversight and police accountability within Berkeley, especially in light of tensions between the police and the community.
The Board of Inquiry hearing is an administrative process that differs significantly from litigation in state or federal court. Due to state laws protecting the confidentiality of proceedings related to police officer discipline, complainants and their representatives are excused from the hearing once the complainant’s testimony is complete. This means that students will not have an opportunity to cross-examine the subject officer or to call or examine witnesses other than the complainant. After the hearing, complainants receive a written report of the vote on each allegation, but do not get to see the reasoning behind each finding. The City Manager and Chief of Police may consider the Commission’s findings when they make a decision about discipline, but discipline is not required.
Time Commitment: Every case will require approximately 20 hours of work. The work may need to be completed in a short time period.