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BERKELEY — Mayor Jesse Arreguin is proposing to cut more than $9.2 million from the Berkeley Police Department budget — 12 percent of its annual budget — in a move to a holistic, community-based approach to public safety.

“For too long, we’ve asked public safety professionals to respond to our public health crisis,” Arreguin said in a statement released Monday.

“A disproportionate number of calls to 911 involve persons suffering from mental illness, and a disproportionate number of police shootings involve individuals in crisis. We can enhance the livability of our community at a fraction of the cost by ending our punitive police response to quality of life crimes, and instead identifying the root cause and treating it.”

Arreguin’s proposed amendments to the city budget follow increasing calls by Berkeley residents to change the fundamental way of policing — as well as the police budget — following the brutal police killing of George Floyd, who was choked to death on Memorial Day by a Minneapolis police officer who put his knee to Floyd’s throat for more than eight minutes.

According to a news release from Arreguin’s office, the Berkeley City Council will vote July 14 on the following proposals:

  • move such responsibilities away from the police department as homeless outreach and services, substance abuse, and mental health/crisis management, traffic and parking enforcement, neighborhood services and code enforcement; 
  • establish a Community Safety Coalition and Steering Committee;
  • limit militarzed weapons and equipment; and
  • track progress on these initiatives on the city website.

“I believe that the key to community safety is community health and wellness,” Arreguín stated. “That requires heavy investments in our community, and reduced investments in police.”

On June 5, Mayor Arreguin and Council member Kate Harrison introduced an urgency item to require the Berkeley Police Department to implement several new policies recommended by the 8 Can’t Wait campaign.

Recommendations that the police department implemented under the ordinance included: requiring de-escalation tactics; exhausting all alternatives before using lethal force; banning firing weapons at moving vehicles; and requiring officers to report each time they either use force or threaten to use force.

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Human Chain Helps Pull Distressed Scuba Diver To Safety In Maine

YORK, M.E. (CBS) — A scuba diver in Maine is safe thanks to strangers who joined together to make a human chain and pull him from choppy water. It happened near Nubble Lighthouse in York around 11 a.m. Monday.

“I was surprised to see how many people got in that line to help out,” said John Antonelli of Haverhill. He and his wife, Rosanna, were walking on the rocks when they noticed the scuba diver and heard him yell for help.

Antonelli quickly started preparing to go into the water to rescue the man himself but he was stopped by a Parks and Recreation employee. Together they decided only one of them should get into the water to avoid them both being overcome by the tide.

Instead, Antonelli should act as an anchor on shore while the other man pulled the scuba diver in.

“I waded to the edge and as I was doing that a whole line of people got up behind us and lined up to hold us in place. I didn’t even realize that was going on,” said Antonelli.

As the Parks employee pulled the diver in, Antonelli grabbed onto the diver’s shoulder strap. With the help of the line behind him, “we slowly pulled him out of the water and off the wet rocks, they were really slippery,” Antonelli said. “I just kept telling him ‘I’m not going to let go.'”

They got the diver to dry rocks as the paramedics arrived.

“He was exhausted, you could tell that he could barely breathe but at least he was breathing. Little by little as we took off the gear, I didn’t realize how heavy it was, as we were unclamping everything I’m like ‘oh my god, this was really weighing him down,'” said Antonelli.

The diver, a 57-year-old man, was treated by first responders at the scene and released.

“I said thank you to the guy who jumped in the water and the guy who was holding my hand because I was talking to him as we were racing to pull him up,” said Antonelli, but he would have liked to give the same message to the others.

“Not only were they helping that scuba diver get out of the water, but they were also keeping me from falling in. So to everybody that was in that line, I would like to say thank you.”

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