Shooting aftermath shows slow pace of BART reforms 

Reforms implemented following the fatal shooting of Oscar Grant III by a BART police officer will be put to the test this week as several separate inquiries consider the agency’s latest police-involved fatality.

The agency’s Citizen Review Board will hold its first meeting today to discuss the July 3 fatal shooting of Charles Hill.

BART police Chief Kenton Rainey has said two officers appear to have been justified in using lethal force to subdue Hill, who threatened them with a knife and glass bottle. But witnesses have said Hill could have been stopped with a nonlethal Taser, which one officer evidently possessed.

The review board was created by the state in response to the 2009 shooting of the unarmed Grant by then-Officer Johannes Mehserle. Today’s meeting will be the board’s first chance to review the officers’ use of force in the recent incident. BART Director Lynette Sweet said the board will have access to police personnel files and be able to recommend disciplinary measures if it uncovers misconduct.

The board will work with Mark Smith, an independent auditor who is overseeing BART’s investigation. Smith, who started his job just three weeks ago, said he will issue a thorough report and assess whether wrongdoing occurred.

He did not say when he will complete his report, or whether he will release any additional details about the shooting.

Following Grant’s death, former police Chief Gary Gee resigned, several independent inquiries studied his department and the agency subsequently vowed to become more publicly forthcoming about such incidents.

But in the wake of Hill’s shooting, media outlets have criticized the glacial pace of releasing information. BART held another news conference Monday, but neither Smith nor agency spokesman Linton Johnson would release new details about the case, including the identity of the officers, how many shots were fired, whether more than one officer shot Hill and why the incident took only one minute. BART also has declined to release video footage until its investigation is complete.

BART Director Tom Radulovich, a member of the agency’s three-person police review committee, which also meets today, said he was frustrated by all the questions that remain.

“We still don’t really even know who is investigating this incident — is it the SFPD or is it BART?” Radulovich said.

“I think the communication with the public has really not improved since the Oscar Grant shooting, which is really
disappointing.”

wreisman@sfexaminer.com

Focus on shooting

BART will have three separate panels discussing the July 3 shooting of Charles Hill by agency police officers. The meetings are open to the public.

Today

  • 10 a.m.: BART police review committee, made up of BART board members Tom Radulovich, Lynette Sweet and Joel Keller
  • After that meeting: BART Citizen Review Board, made up of 11 appointed citizens.

Thursday

  • 9 a.m.: BART board of directors meeting. The full board will receive an update on the incident at its regular meeting.

Source: BART

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Will Reisman

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