New panel tasked with oversight of BART police 

The Mehserle trial may be over, but the fallout from the BART police officer’s shooting of an unarmed man prone on a station platform continues.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed into law a bill that creates a citizen’s oversight committee. BART was criticized for having no established oversight procedures of the law enforcement agency other than the transit agency’s own board.

The bill, written by Oakland Assemblywoman Sandre Swanson, would change that by creating an independent citizen’s watchdog group that would review BART police actions, complaints and grievances. The BART general manager would maintain final authority over disciplinary actions.

Some have criticized the new panel as not having enough power, but BART officials have said it is a big step forward.

Swanson joined BART directors to announce the creation of the new citizen oversight committee at a news conference Friday morning. The conference was held at BART headquarters in downtown Oakland.

BART police came under widespread public scrutiny at the start of 2008, after then-officer Johannes Mehserle shot Oakland resident Oscar Grant in the back as he was laying on the BART platform. Mehserle quit his job within days, and later said he had intended to pull out his taser and instead pulled out his gun. A Los Angeles jury believed Mehserle’s story and acquitted him of murder charges, instead convicting him of involuntary manslaughter.

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Katie Worth

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