Berkeley Police Department in turmoil over leaked texts about arrest quotas
The Berkeley Police Department was in turmoil Thursday following the leak of text messages that allegedly show the president of the police officers union making racially charged remarks and calling for arrest quotas.
The growing scandal resulted in the union president, Sgt. Darren Kacalek, being placed on administrative leave Wednesday, city officials confirmed. He also stepped down from his position as union head. It also put on pause the City Council’s pending appointment of a new police chief, Jennifer Louis, the Berkeley Scanner reported.
The texts were exposed last week by a city police officer who was fired last year, Corey Shedoudy. He claimed he obtained the messages during the arbitration process to get back his job.
“Evidence was uncovered that exposed the unethical and illegal practice of arrest quotas of downtown unhoused ordered by Sgt. Darren Kacalek,” Shedoudy wrote in an email to the mayor and City Council. The officer was reportedly fired for intentionally crashing his bike into a car.
As a member of the Downtown Task Force and BPD Bike Force in 2020, Shedoudy claimed that Kacalek — a sergeant in the Police Department at the time — required him and other officers to make 100 arrests per month, “which was at the time more than the rest of the police department combined,” Shedoudy wrote in the email.
The quotas continued after Louis was named interim chief, Shedoudy said.
The police were ordered by Kacalek to use “questionable legal tactics” such as stop and frisk, probation searches with no reasonable suspicion of a crime, and “stay-away” orders from UC Berkeley.
The selected texts that Shedoudy sent to the mayor on Nov. 10 included racially charged messages about people arrested as well as a joke Kacalek sent seemingly about a disease that “wipes out the homeless pop.” The messages were made public by Oakland advocacy group Secure Justice.
In another instance, Kacalek asked officers if they noticed a similarity among five arrestees.
“They had Covid?” one officer guesses.
“All of the same heritage,” Kacalek responds.
In his email to city officials, Shedoudy called for an investigation into the texts, claiming that Louis has responded to him with “deafening silence.”
Vice Mayor Kate Harrison confirmed that an “independent investigation” would occur before a vote to appoint Louis as chief.
“We do not know if these offensive comments and actions extend beyond the time period and team implicated in the text threads, but the texts validate real concerns in our community,” Harrison said in a statement.
A spokesperson for the city said the independent investigation would be done instead of a Police Department internal affairs investigation “to avoid any question about the impartiality.”
“It’s extremely disgusting. I am cynically and sadly not surprised,” said Brian Hofer, who runs Secure Justice, a criminal justice reform advocacy group. “The text messages are revealing a racist culture and we’re seeing it reflected in the metrics.”
Nearly 35% of police stops in Berkeley in the last year were of Black people, despite the fact that only 8% of the city is Black, according to the census.
At a remove meeting Wednesday, Hofer said Berkeley City Manager Dee Williams-Ridley withdrew the council vote on Louis’ appointment.
Shedoudy also said that at the end of his arbitration process he would be releasing publicly texts that show the practice of “illegal arrest quotas, racism, evidence suppression, lying, and quid pro quos” inside the DTF/Bike Force.
Neither Kacalek nor Shedoudy responded to requests for comment. The Berkeley Police Department did not respond to a request for comment.
In addition to the text scandal, the Police Department has also been accused of denying minors the right to have a lawyer present before waiving their Miranda rights and speaking with police, despite a 2018 law requiring it.
“Recently we have received calls from BPD to provide Miranda consultations where the officers have refused to mirandize the minor while we were on the phone,” Alameda County Public Defender Brendon Woods said in a letter to Interim Police Chief Louis in July.
Woods brought the issue back up at a council hearing Wednesday after the text scandal became public.
“To be honest, I don’t have faith in the chief,” Woods said at the City Council meeting, according to KTVU. “The officers we spoke to were hostile. They were rude and they would often hang up on our attorneys.”
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