Update: Berkeley police union president steps down, put on leave amid text scandal
"We condemn in the strongest terms any negative comments concerning the housing status or ethnicity of those we police and serve," the police union said Tuesday night.
Update, Nov. 16, 11:15 a.m. The Berkeley Scanner has learned that Sgt. Darren Kacalek has now been placed on administrative leave. The Berkeley Police Department announced the decision in an internal memo shortly before 11 a.m. We will continue to seek updates.
Original story: Berkeley Police Association President Sgt. Darren Kacalek has requested a leave of absence from the union board following the recent leak of text messages that have been described as racist and derogatory toward homeless people.
On Tuesday night, the Berkeley Police Association board said, in a prepared statement, that it had granted his leave request and supports an "independent and thorough" investigation into the messages.
“We are disturbed by the alleged texts by BPA president Darren Kacalek," the union wrote. "As police officers, public servants, and union members we condemn in the strongest terms any negative comments concerning the housing status or ethnicity of those we police and serve."
The city has said it will hire an outside firm to investigate the texts and the broader police misconduct claims that have been alleged, which include arrest quotas and "questionable legal tactics" within the department's Bike Force, a proactive patrol team supervised by Kacalek.
On Tuesday afternoon, the city's Police Accountability Board voted to launch its own investigation into the disturbing allegations.
Sgt. Scott Castle, who is now the acting president of the Berkeley Police Association, said the text messages "undermine trust and confidence."
"Discrimination has no place in modern police work," he said in the prepared statement. "The public’s trust in our police officers and the pursuit of justice is paramount."
The union also said that "messages of this type are not reflective of the entire body of officers who work night and day to protect the citizens of Berkeley."
It was unclear as of Tuesday night whether Kacalek was still on active duty with BPD. He is away from work this week on a previously scheduled vacation.
The Berkeley Scanner has asked the city whether he had been placed on administrative leave and will update this story when that information becomes available.
Kacalek's term as union president had been slated to end in December, with a new board seated in 2023.
The leaked texts and allegations, put forward Thursday by terminated Berkeley Police Officer Corey Shedoudy, have constituted the biggest scandal faced by the department in a decade.
The explosive charges may result in more changes as soon as Tuesday night when the City Council had been slated to appoint Interim Chief Jen Louis as the permanent Berkeley police chief.
This week, the Police Accountability Board and numerous community members have asked the Berkeley City Council to postpone the appointment until the misconduct allegations can be investigated.
The City Council had been slated to ratify the chief's appointment as part of its Nov. 15 consent calendar.
Instead, toward the beginning of the meeting, council members said they needed to discuss that decision, in light of the recent allegations, to determine the best way forward.
The Berkeley Scanner is monitoring Tuesday night's City Council meeting and will continue to report on all related developments, allegations and investigations.