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Vote on Police Mutual Aid Pacts Delayed

Speakers warned of an erosion of civil liberties if original contracts are approved; review commission, Berkeley police, rights groups proposed key changes.

The Berkeley City Council last night delayed a vote to renew mutual aid pacts with five policing agencies including the FBI and the federal Department of Homeland Security.

The police review commission working with the Berkeley Police Department and several civil rights organizations had hammered out a list of six recommended modifications to the contracts.

"This issue is of interest to a lot of us, including me," Mayor Tom Bates said. "There are six items, and three out of six are extremely contentious," and warrant more time than the remainder of the meeting allowed. The item did not come up for discussion until 10:20 p.m.

The council nonetheless heard from a parade of speakers, some of whom were drowned out by a protester with a bullhorn outside the chambers. Critics warned of an erosion of civil liberties that has accompanied the "war on terror."

One critic spoke of "a creeping federal presence in policing." A proposal to have Albany, Berkeley and UC police go in on an armored tank for possible use during large-scale events deemed vulnerable to a terror attack -- UC games and the Solano Stroll were mentioned as possibilities -- came in for a particularly resounding drubbing.

"My family and my ancestors have served in every war going back to the Revolutionary War," said Francis Richard Brennan, a veteran. "Now we need to fight and fight and fight to protect the Bill of Rights and the Constitution."

The council will hold a work session on the matter at 5 p.m. June 19.

Do the recommended changes make you feel better about the mutual aid pacts? Leave a comment.

Carolyn Scarr May 24, 2012 at 04:00 AM
I suggest the same thing I suggested last night at the City Council meeting. Tear up all the proposals -- the mutual aid, the reporting of arrestees to federal authorities, cooperation with Immigration, and the tank -- and throw them away. Upon reflection, I think they should go in the shredder. We know what it is like to have military vehicles roaming our streets. Some tear gas type machine fumigated our apartment while my husband was studying for his bar exams. Just driving up Dwight Way, nothing happening, just clearing its mechanical throat for future actions. I also kind of wonder why with such a full agenda, the city council did not begin its meeting until 8:00 instead of the usual 7:00. Also going to be very important to keep track of who the "experts" will be to speak at the "work session" on June 19. I remember the experts who told Congress how it was absolutely essential to attack Iraq. The Dems did not bring in any rebuttal experts to demonstrate that Iraq did not have WMDs and was not connected with 9/11. We must demand real civil libertarian experts and someone to blow the whistle on the expansion of military force into our communities.
BORDC May 29, 2012 at 07:59 PM
This article was referenced in a related post by People's Blog for the Constitution, check it our for more information @ http://www.constitutioncampaign.org/blog/
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