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A texting scandal that has rocked the Berkeley Police Department has led to a sergeant being placed on administrative leave and snarled the city’s pending appointment of a new chief of police.

City officials on Wednesday said that Sgt. Darren Kacalek has been placed on administrative leave amid an investigation into the situation. Kacalek, who has been on the Berkeley police force since July 2002, is accused by a former officer of racist and disparaging messages about the homeless.

In a statement, Berkeley city officials said an external investigator would be hired “to verify and thoroughly investigate any and all documentation and from the very disturbing allegations arising from a November 10, 2022 complaint to the City.”

Kacalek is a supervisor for the city’s downtown task force/bike unit, which has six officers and two sergeants.

“We were ordered to [make arrests] using questionable legal tactics that included stop and frisk, probation searches with no reasonable suspicion of a crime, and a very loose interpretation of stay-away orders from UC Berkeley.”

Corey Shedoudy, former Berkeley police bike patrol officer

A former officer, Corey Shedoudy, sent city officials an email last week with the allegations, and attached text messages.

In one message Kacalek appears to repost a message from a person selling their “white privilege card,” according to the website Secure Justice, a nonprofit based in Oakland that published some of the messages.

“I may even be willing to do an even trade for a race card,” the post says.

Shedoudy’s email claims that the police bike unit was ordered by Kacalek to make 100 arrests per month. That was “more than the rest of the police department combined,” according to a copy of Shedoudy’s email, posted on the Secure Justice website.

“We were ordered to do so using questionable legal tactics that included stop and frisk, probation searches with no reasonable suspicion of a crime, and a very loose interpretation of stay-away orders from UC Berkeley,” Shedoudy said.

In the wake of the accusations, Kacalek has stepped down from his post as president of the Berkeley Police Association, the union representing the department’s roughly 150 police officers said Tuesday.

Appointment on hold

Also on Tuesday, the allegations swirling around Kacalek prompted the Berkeley City Council to delay making interim Police Chief Jennifer Louis’s job permanent. Louis has said she had no knowledge or oversight of the allegations against Kacalek during the time they occurred.

Jennifer Louis is interim chief of the Berkeley Police Department. Her appointment as permanent chief is pending. (Photo courtesy of Berkeley Police Department)

Nathan Mizell, vice chair of the Berkeley Police Accountability Board, maintains that Kacalek sent the allegedly inappropriate messages when Louis was a captain and she may have known about them yet did nothing. Mizell’s allegations do not necessarily represent the view of the board.

Louis on Tuesday denied she knew about the alleged misconduct. Louis through a city spokesperson said she became aware of the messages last Thursday.

Louis added that the alleged misconduct did not occur under her supervision.

“I was the Captain in charge of the Operations Division until January 2018, which was before any of the incidents in this subunit allegedly occurred,” Louis said. “I was appointed as Interim Chief in March 2021, after these alleged incidents occurred.”

She said the allegations are “extremely concerning, and they deserve to be investigated thoroughly.”