Western Region Corresponden
Oscar Grant shooting update
(FinalCall.com) – The Bay Area Rapid Transit Department has hired the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives to conduct an independent review of its policies. The goal is to ensure that a situation like the fatal shooting of a Black male passenger on New Year’s Day does not happen again.
When then-BART officer Johannes Mehserle shot and killed 22-year-old Oscar Grant, III on the Oakland Fruitvale Station platform, he set off a series of protests and town hall meetings, in addition to this latest independent review. Mr. Mehserle’s trial was set to begin in March, but was postponed to May 18 due to another high profile officer-involved shooting in the city.
“The goal of the study will be to provide BART with evaluation results and recommendations that will help us identify any changes we need to make to ensure the BART Police Department is structured and administered effectively and that the department follows the industry’s best practices as appropriate in the environment in which BART operates,” said Joel Keller, vice chair of the BART Police Department Review Committee in a press release.
The committee will help the BART board of directors establish civilian oversight of its police.
For approximately four months and $128,000, NOBLE will specifically assess:
– The culture and expectations of the customers and communities BART serves;
– Recruitment, hiring and promotion standards and practices;
– Training and equipment, including use of force, conduct of investigation, diversity, cultural awareness and sensitivity, and avoidance of racial profiling.
– NOBLE will also look into transit police ability to promote safety, customer service, public trust and effective policing in diverse communities.
– Part of the process will involve partnering law enforcement and citizens to identify community concerns and establish strategies together to address those concerns.
“I am pleased that they would hire an independent firm to look into their policies but the prayer is they’re not simply seeking to appease an angry community in the absence of producing a real change. So the verdict is out on how BART will respond to NOBLE’s recommendations,” said Student Minister Keith Muhammad of Muhammad Mosque No. 26B in Oakland.
BART Board member Lynette Sweet, who helped to evaluate proposals for the contract, said that NOBLE demonstrated it understood the value of engaging the community and proved it had the expertise to comprehensively review the police force from top to bottom. “This study will provide us with findings and recommendations that will get the job done in four months at which time we’ll know what our police do well and what they need to do to improve,” Ms. Sweet said.
BART began holding public forums May 2 to solicit input on selecting a civilian oversight model. Their effort corresponds with Assembly Bill 312, which would require the board to create an Office of Citizen Complaints to investigate complaints and allegations of police misconduct by the BART police department.
“Every police union in the state opposed that bill out of fear that maybe California Highway Patrol might have a police review mandate or L.A. sheriffs might have a police review mandate by the state. We support the state’s attempt to enforce the production of police oversight review with BART and really it raises the question what kind of oversight and review process will exist in every city in the state,” Mr. Muhammad said.
On Feb. 11, BART announced that it hired the Meyers Nave law firm to conduct an internal investigation into Mr. Grant’s shooting death, initially at a cost of about $99,000, according to reports. The board increased the amount to $250,000 due to the increased scope of the investigation.
Meyers Nave is investigating the actions of all officers on the Fruitvale Station platform at the time of the Grant shooting and whether or not the level of force used was appropriate. In addition, it is looking into whether officers acted professionally and had appropriate contact with the public; whether they had reasonable cause to detain; and whether they acted reasonably.