Translation Disclaimer

Police Department
Police Department

What do I need to know as a participant?

How far should I stay from officers standing on a police line?

We recommend that participants stay approximately 6 feet back from a police line unless directed to do otherwise by officers.  They need space and time to correctly perceive, evaluate and react to potential threats. Officers need space for their safety.  This space gives officers time to make better use of force decisions. Advancing on officers only reduces the time an officer will have to make those decisions.  If you don't encroach on their safety zone, they are not likely to feel you are a threat and won't need to order you to move back. If you fail to follow warnings or if an officer feels you pose a threat to their safety, you may be pushed away from the police line with a hand, arm or baton.

Why don't the officers on the police line respond to my questions?

Officers will not engage in conversations with the crowd.  Officers on a police line are watching for threats and are watching the whole crowd, not just the people directly in front of them.  Their safety helmet also makes it harder to hear and be heard.  Engaging in conversations encourages people to come closer to the line to hear and be heard.  As discussed, being close to the police line impacts officer and protester safety.  If you need to communicate with an officer, go to the end of the police line (away from the center of the crowd) and ask to speak to a supervisor or call the non-emergency number (510) 981-5900.  If staffing allows, an officer will be sent to contact people requesting police assistance.

What would cause the police to issue a dispersal order?

The police may issue a dispersal order if members of the crowd pose a clear and present danger to the public.  This may include looting, assaults, lighting fires, or throwing objects at people (including officers).

What if I am not part of the protest?  Do I have to leave the area?

Yes.  After a dispersal order is issued, anyone within earshot of the order is required by law to leave the area to comply with the order. You are no longer allowed to remain together as a group. The order also applies to those present who are not members of the group protesting, are just curious bystanders, or did not participate in any of the activity that led to the issuance of the dispersal order.

What will happen if I don't disperse?

The police may make arrests for failure to disperse per California Penal Code section 409.  Depending on the circumstances, you may be cited or booked into jail and charged with a crime.  If necessary, the police may use reasonable physical force to disperse the crowd.  This may include the use of police batons, less than lethal foam baton rounds, and CS gas (tear gas).  These uses of force can cause physical discomfort, significant pain and potential injury.

Should I try to stop people who are looting, lighting fires, causing damage or fighting?

We do not recommend physically confronting these elements in a crowd.  This can be extremely dangerous.  Crowding around looters only slows police response.  We  recommend peaceful protesters back away and call the police.  Be a good witness, use your camera phones and, when possible get good pictures or videos of the suspects.  This is only helpful if you share the video with the police department or make it available online.

BPD wants you to have safe protests.  This may mean violent elements need to be arrested and removed from the crowd.  Violations of laws may result in detentions, citations, or arrests. Do not interfere with officers trying to detain people or make arrests.  No matter how chaotic the scene surrounding an arrest may appear, please keep your distance and allow the officers to safely place someone in custody.  While in public, it is your Constitutional right to film or photograph officers taking action.

Why do the police want to keep protests off of the freeway and train tracks?

Entering a freeway or railroad right of way can be extremely dangerous.  Entering the freeway could lead to collisions between motorists and protesters and also between motorists trying to stop abruptly.  At speed, these collisions could cause serious damage, injury or prove fatal.  Trains are large and may appear slow but can move deceptively fast. Trains can take over a mile to stop once the engineer sees a problem on the track and applies the brakes.  However, when arriving in Berkeley, engineers may not have a mile long line of sight.  For these reasons, entering the freeway or train tracks can be extremely dangerous and is not advised.

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Police Department, 2100 Martin Luther King, Jr. Way, Berkeley, CA 94704
Questions or comments? Email: police@cityofberkeley.info Phone: (510) 981-5900
(510) 981-CITY/2489 or 311 from any landline in Berkeley
TTY: (510) 981-6903
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