By Patty Yao
BERKELEY, CA — On Nov. 14, 2022, Nathan Mizell, Vice-Chair of the Berkeley Police Accountability Board released a statement about the allegations of police misconduct revealed by a former Berkeley Police Department (BPD) officer.
These allegations include text messages sent in a Downtown Task Force/Bike Unit group chat from current BPD sergeant and president of the BPD police union Darren Kacelek, detailing illegal policing practices such as police quotas and racist and anti-homeless sentiments. Some of the texts state,
- “Stern is gonna come back with a new strain that wipes out the homeless pop. We will just ride by the bodies!”
- “81 arrests! We can do 19 by Friday for sure!”
- “He said just kick ass, arrest people, have fun, and get me results and I will never jam you about overtime”
An additional post by Kacelek on a Facebook marketplace ad states, “I’m selling my white privilege card. It’s 48 years old and it hasn’t done a damn thing for me. No welfare checks. No inheritance. No free college. No free food. No free housing, etc. I may even be willing to do an even trade for a race card. Those seem to be way more useful and more widely accepted. Interested? Contact me on my non Obama cell phone that I have to pay for every month.”
In addition, the former BPD officer alleges that the DTF/Bike Force was “ordered by Sgt. Kacelek to make 100 arrests per months” and to use “questionable legal tactics that included stop and frisk, probation searches with no reasonable suspicion of a crime, and a very loose interpretation of stay-away orders from UC Berkeley” to meet the quota. Arrest quotas are illegal in the state of California.
However, in his statement, Mizell states that “it is alleged that Interim Chief Louis had prior awareness of the misconduct and took no action” and calls for the confirmation of Louis as the formal police chief—which was originally scheduled for Nov. 15 at 6:00 PM—to be halted until a proper investigation into the allegations is carried out by the Police Accountability Board (PAB). He writes, “Hastily confirming the Interim Chief now would severely undermine public confidence in the independent oversight that Berkeley’s citizens voted for in establishing the PAB.”
Berkeley’s City Manager wrote in a letter to the Mayor and the City Council that “the allegations will be investigated fully and any additional investigative oversight needed will be sought” and that she does not see any reason to delay the appointment of Jen Louis to Chief of Police. She says, “My initial inquiry affirms that she had no knowledge of the allegations or text messages.”
In her response on Tuesday, Louis denied any knowledge about the alleged misconduct, saying that the alleged misconduct did not occur under her supervision as she was appointed Interim Chief in March 2021—one to two years after the dates of the leaked text messages. She adds that the allegations are “extremely concerning, and they deserve to be investigated thoroughly.”
Shortly after the public release of the allegations and the text messages, community-based groups including Berkeley Copwatch and UC Berkeley Cal Dems demanded that the City Council delay the appointment of Interim Chief of Police Jennifer Louis, support an independent investigation by the PAB, and hold BPD accountable for any misconduct.
The groups, alongside Mizell, held a protest against BPD at noon on Nov. 15 at Caffe Strada, where BPD was holding a “Coffee with a Cop” event for community members.
In an interview with The Vanguard at Berkeley, Mizell reiterated the importance of an investigation, saying “if we’re going to have any public confidence at all in the department, we have to have a process, we have to have an investigation. Nearly 85% of voters voted to have a PAB, voted to have an independent process for these types of investigations, and the reality is no one in the public, not the board, knew anything about this until Thursday. We have to understand the facts of this matter before we can make any decision as consequential as confirming a new police chief.”
Mizell has also expressed concern at how Kacelek was able to get to high-ranking positions in BPD and the police union, stating, “it’s extremely concerning if these allegations are true, and it really shows that we have to look at how are we selecting people for these positions, who was involved, and, if these allegations are true, whether policing is the best way to carry out public safety in our city.”
He adds, “Folks in the city way before me have been working on racial disparities for nearly a decade. NAACP, Black Student Union on campus, the ACLU, and other community groups have worked very hard to change this. Now with these allegations, I think we have to consider if these changes have really manifested in the department or are we just doing all the work to get the policy done but the implementation is not actually getting done.”
Bailey Henderson, the External Affairs Vice President of the Associated Students of the University of California, addressed the importance of student involvement in holding BPD accountable, stating, “Students should really look into who is policing them. You think it might not affect you or your safety, but the safety concerns are for students of color who get arrested through these arrest quotas or profiled because they’re just walking down the street at the wrong time in the wrong place. We are supposed to be protected by them but they’re not protecting us, they’re actually harming us and our communities. I read those texts and I was absolutely disgusted.”
At the Berkeley City Council meeting on Nov. 15th, the Council announced that it will not be moving forward with the appointment of Jennifer Louis as the Chief of Police at this time. Mayor Jesse Arreguin stated, “I do support the police accountability board having a separate investigation and a third-party investigation” and “I obviously think the comments are disgusting, outrageous, and unacceptable. They don’t reflect any standards of constitutional policing. I am fully committed to working with the Council, the City Manager, and the Police Accountability Board to investigate, hold people accountable, and to address the broader patterns and practices of racial discrimination and discriminatory policing that should not be happening in Berkeley.”
However, community members expressed concern with the trust that the Mayor and City Manager placed in Jennifer Louis during the public comment portion of the meeting. Many also expressed concern about Louis’s alleged lack of knowledge of these allegations as well as the hiring practices of BPD.
As of Nov. 16, Darren Kacalek has requested a leave of absence from the Berkeley Police Association board.
Murong (Patty) Yao is a current fourth year at UC Berkeley majoring in Political Economy and minoring in Public Policy. This is her second semester at the Vanguard at Berkeley, and she’s a writer for the prison reform desk. She’s from Allentown Pennsylvania.