City of Berkeley Approves Police Defunding Plan

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Major changes are coming to the streets of Berkeley.  The city council is moving forward with a plan to stop using police officers to make traffic stops, a move that could cost the police half their budget.

The early morning decision by the city council aims to flat-out change how police operate in the city of Berkeley.

The plan is to take traffic enforcement out of police hands in favor of enforcement by unarmed city employees.

The police would also stop responding to homeless outreach and mental health crisis management calls. Instead, the city would create an unarmed community safety coalition, and pay for it by cutting the police budget in half.

"I think we can do this thoughtfully," said Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguin. 

The mayor approves the plan but admits there will be disagreement.

"What a person in the hills thinks is safety may not be what a person in the flatlands thinks. We need to have that conversation around, what does health and safety mean for our community," he said. 

Berkeley city leaders early Wednesday voted for a comprehensive police reform plan, including removing traffic stops from the Police Department's jurisdiction, making it one of the first U.S. cities to do so. Cierra Johnson reports.

Word on the street is also mixed.

"Absolutely," said Berkeley resident Ingrid Little. “When you're in an environment where everybody wants success, it works, and this is a town where they want success."

Two weeks ago, Berkeley partially defunded its police department. The new plan would cut deeper and Tuesday night's vote means the proposal has cleared a key hurdle, But it's not a done deal yet. The final vote is likely months away.

"Because it's not safe all around,” said Berkeley resident Hande Yildiz-Garcia. “We may come across a time when we're not able to handle a situation." 

NBC Bay Area reached out to the Berkeley Police Department and it responded with a statement, saying it's too early to know how all this will change what they do in the community ... but they insist their number one priority is the safety of the people in Berkeley.

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