CHARLENEM -Western Reg. Correspondent-
(FinalCall.com) – A pair of bills that would create independent oversight over the San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit District (BART) have been cleared for consideration by the California State Assembly.
The proposed legislation, which passed the Assembly Public Safety Committee on Jan. 12, stemmed from the New Year’s Day 2009 shooting death of Oscar Grant, III by former BART officer Johannes Mehserle. A judge has ruled that there is enough evidence for Mr. Mehserle stand trial for the death, and the trial is expected to begin in Los Angeles in mid-May.
Assembly member SandrÃ© R. Swanson’s Bay Area Rapid Transit District (BART) Public Safety Accountability Act (AB1586) would establish an Office of Independent Police Auditor to investigate public complaints of misconduct against BART officers. The auditor would have the ability to also make independent findings on the validity of complaints and recommend disciplinary action.
In addition, it would give the BART board of directors power to create a citizen review board to give input on officer discipline.
“It has been over a year since the 2009 New Year’s Day shooting of Oscar Grant III by a BART police officer. Recognizing the need for greater internal and external oversight of the BART police department, the BART board of directors spent several months fine tuning this proposal through extensive discussions with the community and law enforcement,” said Assembly member Swanson, in a press release.
BART’s critics argue that its police force needs oversight that secures facts in complaints against police abuses and through an elected civilian board ensures officers are properly disciplined.
Under Assembly member Tom Ammiano’s San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit District: Office of Citizen Complaints (AB312), investigators, no less than one for every 150 sworn members of the police force, would investigate complaints and allegations of police misconduct by BART police.
District attorneys from Alameda, Contra Costa, and San Francisco Counties would nominate the director for that office, but final selection would be made by the board.
“After two independent reports made by Meyers-Nave and NOBLE, it is clear that BART police made many mistakes and errors on the night Oscar Grant was murdered,” said Student Minister Keith Muhammad of Oakland’s Mosque No. 26B. Currently, discipline rests with BART’s general manager and chief of police, but they’ve yet to correct any officers in Mr. Grant’s murder, he said. Meyers-Nave is a Bay-Area law firm and the acronym NOBLE stands for the National Organization of Blacks in Law Enforcement.
“Rather than secure what is best for the public, the chief (former Chief Gary Gee) spoke to defend himself and his officers. Rather than protect the public, BART management has worked to increase its public relations … We have no need for a ceremonial review board that looks good for public relations but is not empowered to do good by correcting police officers who have gone wrong. Please pass a bill with enough strength to correct the wrong,” Min. Muhammad said.
- Activists oppose venue, oversight changes in Oscar Grant case (FCN, 09-25-2009)
- Civilian review board for Bay area’s rapid transit department (FCN, 09-07-2009)
- Community leaders accuse officers of lying in Oscar Grant shooting case (FCN, 07-02-2009)
- Fatal shooting of unarmed man sparks outrage (FCN, 07-19-2009)