At a specially-called board meeting, the BART Board of Directors unanimously approved the creation of a committee that will provide additional oversight of the BART Police Department and the review of major police incidents.
The BART Police Department Review Committee's objective is to provide the Board with greater focus on BART Police Department responsibilities.
Board President Thomas Blalock appointed Director Carole Ward Allen to chair the new committee. Director Ward Allen's district includes Fruitvale Station, where a BART police officer fatally shot Oscar Grant on January 1, 2009.
"The BART Police Review Committee will work to make sure that we are doing everything possible to ensure our Police Department is the best that it can possibly be and to prevent an incident like the one on New Year's Day from ever occurring again," Blalock said. "Our goal is to make sure that we are doing everything possible to ensure our police department is operating at the highest and most professional standards."
"I want to again express the sincere condolences of this Board to the family of Oscar Grant," Director Ward Allen said. "While the events on New Year's Day that led to his death were indeed tragic, it is our hope that something positive and lasting will occur as a result. Some of the main purposes of the BART Police Department Review Committee include making sure that this kind of incident never happens again and to review the models of citizens police oversight committees from other agencies so that we can explore creating one designed specifically to address BART Police Department issues."
Board Member Joel Keller, who represents portions of Contra Costa County, was appointed the new committee's vice-chairperson. Board Member Lynette Sweet, who represents portions of Alameda, Contra Costa and San Francisco counties, will also serve on the committee, as will Board Member Tom Radulovich who represents portions of San Francisco County. The new committee's responsibilities will focus on:
- Immediately initiating a review of basic training and certification requirements for BART police officers
- Conducting a review of existing BART Police Department policies and procedures, including General Orders and Operational Directives
- Identifying opportunities to strengthen current practices
- Identifying best practices that should be adopted by BART Police Department Developing a critical response plan
- Surveying the structure of civilian police review boards and independent auditors for Bay Area police departments and major transit agencies to support the Board of Directors' consideration of this issue
The new committee will also receive timely briefings on major police incidents and meet with elected officials and community members to discuss related concerns.
At last week's regularly scheduled board meeting -- the first since the shooting incident -- Board President Blalock announced his intention to form the committee to examine major police events. The Board was legally barred from forming the committee at last week's meeting because an item was not on the official agenda.
BART Police Background
BART's police officers are fully sworn peace officers who have the same powers of arrest and authority to carry firearms as city police officers and county sheriff's deputies. In addition, BART officers attend the same police academies and receive continuous police training.
BART's police officers are certified by the California Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training and they undergo a rigorous background investigation and must complete a comprehensive training program, including field training. To view the rigorous peace officer standards, visit the commission's website at www.post.ca.gov. You can view the current hiring standards, course requirement and the certification regulations, among other items. The BART Police Department is required to provide on-going training to its officers and has established policies and procedures, including general orders that prescribe appropriate conduct that is expected of all members of the department, both sworn and non-sworn staff. BART officers are expected to maintain the highest standards of professionalism, which include ethical conduct and dedication to public service.