A Berkeley City Council majority approved an expansive package of new programs and positions Thursday night designed to transform public safety in Berkeley while also helping boost police staffing from a historic low.
The council vote is a budget referral, meaning it will come back to officials in June for consideration as part of the upcoming budget process.
But if it is fully funded, the package — built on years of work by community members, officials and staff — would represent a major investment in what officials say they hope could result in an entirely new approach to community safety.
The vision involves having civilians respond to many of the calls police now handle — those determined not to need an armed response — as well as the potential creation of a new Department of Community Safety, modeled on a program in Albuquerque, to provide comprehensive oversight of the overhauled system and bring a range of initiatives under one roof. The new umbrella agency would be a first in California, Mayor Jesse Arreguín said this week.
“With crime increasing, don’t we want our police to focus more on gun violence, investigations and community policing?” Arreguín said Thursday night. “That is why we proposed that we explore alternatives to policing.”
See the mayor’s presentation Thursday’s meeting
The reimagining package includes nearly $1 million in estimated consultant costs to help the city continue to analyze several efforts:
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