An Open Letter To The Berkeley City Council


June 21, 2018

Honorable Mayor Jesse Arrequin and Members of the Berkeley City Council:  Ben Bartlett,  Cheryl Davila, Lori Droste, Sophie Hahn, Kate Harrison, Linda Maio, Susan Wengraf,  Kriss Worthington

cc: City of Berkeley City Manager Dee Williams-Ridley, City of Berkeley City Attorney Farimah Brown, City of Berkeley City Clerk

City of Berkeley  2180 Milvia Street  Berkeley, CA 94709

In Re: Council Subcommittee Urban Shield Vote

On behalf of Media Alliance’s constituency in your city, I am writing to you with regard to Mayor Arreguin’s statment on June 19, 2018.

The purpose of this letter is to do two things:

  1. To identify the language in the Berkeley City Charter and municipal code that addresses agreements with other law enforcement agencies, including the Alameda County Sheriff’s Department.
  2. To provide documentation of two previous Council votes in December of 2015 and June of 2017 in which the council purported to direct the Berkeley Police Department  and the Berkeley City Manager in whether or not to participate in the Urban Shield SWAT competition.

Since 1973, the Berkeley City Charter and municipal code has provided explicit language mandating City Council approval of the terms and conditions of agreements, understandings, or policies reflecting working relationships between the Berkeley Police Department and other law enforcement agencies, police departments or private security organizations and for community involvement in the process of such approval, prior to the date on which the agreements, understandings or policies take effect. 

More specifically:

All agreements, letters or memoranda of understanding of policies which express terms and conditions of mutual aid, information sharing, cooperation and assistance, between the City and/or the Berkeley Police Department and all other local and state (including University of California Police Department, Alameda County Sheriff and California Highway Patrol) and federal law enforcement, military and/or intelligence agencies, police departments or private security organizations, are cancelled ninety days from April 17, 1973, unless approved by the City Council. 

I can assure you from my own personal experience that a written agreement with the Alameda County Sheriff’s Department outlining the terms and conditions of Urban Shield attendance is required of all Urban Shield participants, having had to sign such a document prior to being allowed simply to observe the event in 2017 as a guest of the Alameda County task force.

The cited codes in the City Charter and municipal code are 2.04.150 to 2.04.210.

If for the sake of argument, there is a wish to entertain the notion that this portion of the City Charter and municipal code does not need to be obeyed, then the previous actions of the Berkeley City Council as endorsed by all the members of the City Council, the City Manager and the City Attorney would similarly be, as Ms, Wengraf put it, “illegal.”.

December 15, 2015 – See annotated agenda 

Motion proposed by Council Members Worthington and Anderson containing the following language:

“The City shall take a one-year hiatus from participation in Urban Shield activities”.  

Voted on by the following Berkeley City Council members: Max Anderson, Kriss Worthington, Jesse Arreguin (ayes), Linda Maio, Darryl Moore, Laurie Capitelli, Lori Droste, Tom Bates. 

June 20, 2017 – See annotated agenda

Motion proposed by Council Members Bartlett and Mayor Arreguin containing the following language:

Allow Berkeley Fire Department and Berkeley Police Department to participate in this year’s Urban Shield activities.”

Voted on by the following Berkeley City Council members: Linda Maio, Ben Bartlett, Sophie Hahn, Susan Wengraf, Lori Droste, Jesse Arreguin (ayes), Cheryl Davila, Kate Harrison (nays). 

The authorization to allow an activity necessarily grants the authority not to allow it.

Under Ms. Wengraf’s current assertion, two different Berkeley City Managers and two different Berkeley City Attorneys endorsed a charter violation. 13 different members of the Berkeley City Council including two different mayors are now guilty of a misdemeanor charter violation and have broken the law.

While I consider it highly unlikely such a claim would stand up in a court of law given the 45 year old language in the City Charter explictly granting the Council full authorization, it is unfortunate such a dubious claim is being taken at face value.

The decision to participate or not participate in the final Urban Shield SWAT competition in 2018 is one that needs to be made on the substantive merits of the issue, not misguided procedural posturing.

An honest assessment that the advantages of the SWAT contest provided by Sheriff Gregory Ahern outweigh the disadvantages is a position that can be held, although it is not one that I, or the vast majority of Media Alliance’s members, hold. But to declare that an opinion different than one’s own is illegal is a step too far.

Please set this procedural concern aside and continue in the direction of substantive policy debate about the values, the principles and the needs of the Berkeley community. That is what you were elected to do.


Tracy Rosenberg, Executive Director, Media Alliance




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