On Wednesday, Nov. 29, 2023, John “Chip” Moore, the chair of Berkeley’s Police Accountability Board (PAB), spoke to Berkeley High School’s Law and Social Justice class. Throughout the class period, Moore discussed his role in the Police Accountability Board, why it is necessary to have oversight in place, and how the PAB operates in order to oversee the Berkeley Police Department (BPD).
The PAB was established in 2020, following the murder of George Floyd, to oversee BPD and investigate complaints made against BPD officers. The Board is comprised of nine members and meets on the second and fourth Wednesday of every month. All of their meetings are recorded and shared publicly on their website. According to Moore, “The Police Accountability Board is an oversight body that is tasked with providing transparency and accountability for our police officers and our police department here in the city of Berkeley.”
Berkeley has had a system for civilian oversight of law enforcement for decades. In 1973, the City of Berkeley created the Police Review Commission, one of the first oversight agencies with independent authority to investigate complaints against local law enforcement. When the city founded the PAB in 2020, it granted more authority and transparency for civilian oversight than the Police Review Commission had in the past.
Moore got involved with the PAB in 2020 when a community organization called Friends of Avalon asked if he would be interested in joining the PAB and representing his community. According to Moore, he felt that this board was necessary for the community. “I think it’s important to have oversight and accountability in every aspect of public life. And it’s important for our community to be the most important part of earning or warranting transparency in our policing,” said Moore.
According to James Dopman, the BHS Law and Social Justice teacher, his class hosts a speaker from the PAB every year. “It’s important to hear a civilian perspective about civilian oversight of police,” Dopman said. The BHS Law and Social Justice class has often had speakers talk about various topics related to criminal justice. Moore’s talk was intended to allow students to consider and encourage discussion of how civilians could access the actions of their local police.
According to Frances Portis, a junior at BHS, the class often discusses topics similar to the Police Accountability Board. “In the class, we analyze the criminal justice system, and a ton of people come in to talk to us about the fields they work in. We’ve talked to a lot of cops as well as the Police Accountability Board, so they have different opinions, which is really interesting,” Portis said.
According to Portis, since Moore’s talk with the class, students have discussed the amount of access they think the board should have, the amount of access the public should have, and students’ opinions on how the police should be controlled. “One thing I found really interesting was how (Moore) said that the only time the board could investigate a case was if they got a complaint about it,” Portis said.
The Police Accountability Board currently works with many organizations and individuals to build up the oversight of local law enforcement.
According to Dopman, “Having civilian oversight of a police department that is collaborative, instead of adversarial, is vital to having a department respond and reflect the community that the police department serves.”