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Civilian Rights

Page history last edited by Cal in Local Government 11 years, 4 months ago

Note: please note that this issue brief should (a) link back to the issue overview on this topic, (b) be focused either the local, state, national, or global level, and (c) be neutrally presented, based on facts, and include footnotes for each of the items.  See the Research Guide and Information Sources to assist you. 



Goal Statement

Two civilian rights brochures were created by two student interns with the City of Berkeley Police Review Commission (PRC) through the Cal in Local Government Internship Program that is sponsored by the Cal Corps Public Service Center at the University of California, Berkeley. The goal of these brochures is to create community awareness about the PRC and to inform citizens about police procedures and their rights during a police encounter. The goal is to upload both brochures to the PRC website as well as deliver paper copies to associations/groups. Informing the public about the PRC is essential to ensure a continued tradition of keeping the Berkeley Police Department in check as well as encouraging and enhancing the involvement of citizens in local government. This knowledge may ultimately make the PRC that much more efficient.



Scope of the Problem  factual statements on the extent of the problem in the past, current, or future

  • Many complaints that the PRC receive are products of misunderstandings between citizens and police officers. The hope is that by informing the public through these brochures, some of these unnecessary complaints will be prevented, which would then allow the PRC to investigate more serious complaints and ultimately become more efficient. 



Past Policy  key legislation and milestones including significant policy and funding shifts, major studies, etc.

Existing models of other police review agencies:

  • Police Oversight Commission

    •  A citizen board that reviews complaints and holds hearings. The PRC falls into this category.

  • Independent Counsel/Auditor

    • When an individual reviews Internal Affairs investigations.

    • A local example is the Independent Police Auditor of San Jose. Her website has an informational brochure regarding civilian rights in police interactions but it is primarily targeted to youth.

  • Independent Review Office model

    • Similar to a Police Oversight Commission without the Commission.

    • The City of Richmond has a Police Review Commission and they too have an informational brochure about their agency.



Current Policy  summary of current policies in the form of legislation, programs, and funding

The interns proposed 3 recommendations to the PRC:

  • To update the existing PRC brochure

  • To create a new know your rights brochure which would detail the rights of civilians in police interactions as well as commonly misunderstood/unknown police procedures

  • To create a list of community resources and key contacts guide for civilians.  



  • The interns updated the information in the general PRC brochure. An important part of updating the brochure included making a list of common complaints. Most of the complaints filed with the PRC consist of the following:
    • Inappropriate searches
    • Detentions
    • Arrest
    • Inappropriate police procedures.
  • The interns then created a separate “Know Your Rights” brochure for civilians to answer some of the most commonly asked questions regarding police encounters. The PRC did not have a "Know your rights" brochure. Many organizations like Copwatch and the ACLU have a "Know Your Rights" pamphlet. The brochure includes information on warrants, searches, consent, right to silence, stops, detentions and a list of resources in the Bay Area. The interns focused on searches, warrants, and detentions because these are the most common types of civilian complaints.
    •  Example of information included in the brochure:
      • There is some ambiguity about the difference between probable cause and reasonable suspicion.
      • An officer can search a vehicle if they have probable cause that a crime is being committed.
      • Reasonable suspicion is a basis for detentions but an officer cannot arrest you solely on reasonable suspicion.
      • Probable Cause is a reasonable belief that an individual has committed or involved in a crime or if criminal activity is taking place. It is the legal basis for an officer to search a vehicle or make an arrest without a warrant.  



Glossary of Terms

  • Police Review Commission
  • Probable Cause
  • Reasonable suspicion
  • "Know Your Rights" brochure



Contact     contact information for sponsor of this policy or program 


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