OAKLAND — After six months, dozens of meetings and one major revision, BART managers presented a beefed-up plan Thursday for a police oversight committee described by one director as one of the Bay Area's strongest models of civilian review.
After the New Year's Day fatal shooting of an unarmed passenger, Oscar Grant III, by a then-BART police officer, community members called for independent scrutiny of police actions.
An initial BART proposal called for an independent auditor to oversee BART police but made no provision for civilian oversight. This is not an unusual scenario. The city of San Jose, for example, has an Office of Independent Police Auditor and no civilian review.
That didn't sit well with the community, however, as BART quickly learned in subsequent public meetings.
"Clearly, that was an oversight on our part, which we corrected," BART director Joel Keller said Friday.
The proposal submitted Thursday calls for both an independent auditor and an 11-member board appointed by BART's board of directors. The auditor would investigate complaints and recommend discipline against officers, and the commission would monitor the auditor.
Some expressed concerns about cumbersome checks and balances built into the system.
"The community is being shortchanged by a convoluted bureaucratic process. We want a way to efficiently and fairly get to the truth. This is an inefficient process," said Jesse Sekhon, president of the BART Police Officers Association.
Under the proposal, if the auditor and the civilian board agree, the two entities then submit their recommendations to the BART police chief. If the chief disagrees, he can appeal to the general manager. If the auditor and civilian board disagree with the general manager's decision, it would require a two-thirds vote of the civilian oversight board and a two-thirds vote of the BART board of directors to overrule the decision.
"How come every time the civilian board disagrees, they have to have a two-thirds majority? With a two-thirds majority (requirement), the general manager and police chief are always making the decision," Krystof Lauper of activist group No Justice No BART said at Thursday's meeting.
"I don't think everything should come to the board because it's time-consuming," Keller said. "We're not experts and the auditor, chief and oversight committee should develop the expertise to handle these complaints. The difference between a simple majority and a two-thirds majority is only one vote."
After the public commented on the draft plan, BART board members responded to concerns raised.
"We do want the auditor and the review board to be looking at police policies," said BART director Tom Radulovich. "This is going to elevate us to one of the most accountable police forces in the Bay Area."
The board will be receive written comments on the draft model via e-mail or U.S. mail until Aug. 7. It will consider a resolution to adopt a model of civilian oversight at an August board meeting at a later date.
To comment on the draft model, e-mail email@example.com or write: BART board of directors, P.O. Box 12688, Oakland, CA 94604-2688.