By TOM GANTERT
THE CENTER SQUARE
(The Center Square) – Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguin extolled the city’s efforts to rethink policing by ending police traffic stops for non-safety reasons and getting written consent from motorists for a vehicle search in February 2021.
“Too much of our city’s budget is spent on policing, and many of the duties we’ve assigned to officers do not require a response from someone with a badge and a gun,” Mayor Arreguin said in a news release.
Police officers in Berkeley are some of the highest-paid employees in the city. In 2021, a police sergeant made $353,259, which included $143,219 in overtime. That made the sergeant the highest-paid employee in the city. The city manager made $312,672 that year.
Fourteen of the 17 city employees who made $300,000 or more in 2021 worked in the police department. The city stated it spent $243,023 per police position in 2022.
Overall, the city spent $132.5 million on public safety, which includes the police and fire departments, in 2021. Public safety accounted for 37% of all city expenditures, according to Berkeley’s 2021 audited budget.
Overtime was a major factor in the high police salaries. Thirty-six police department employees made $50,000 or more in overtime in 2021.
The city stated in its audited budget, “Public Safety was over budget by $9.5 million due to overspending of Police and Fire overtime budgets. This was related to staffing shortages forcing mandatory overtime, and due to mutual aid requests.”
The Berkeley police department and City Manager Dee Williams-Ridley did not respond to emails seeking comment.