State to weigh BART police reform 

Two bills aimed at creating independent oversight bodies to monitor the BART Police Department will go before state legislators Tuessa little more than a year after the 2009 New Year’s Day shooting of Oscar Grant III.

Assemblyman Sandré Swanson, D-Oakland, has authored a bill to create an 11-member citizen oversight group and a permanent independent auditor position that would work together to review BART police actions, complaints and grievances. Both the oversight group and the auditor would be responsible for suggesting potential disciplinary measures, with the final decision ultimately resting with BART General Manager Dorothy Dugger. However, BART management is supporting a future amendment that would grant final say to the elected BART board of directors.

Swanson’s proposal, which will be heard today at the Assembly’s Public Safety Committee, nearly mirrors an oversight proposal offered up by BART’s own staff.

However, within the BART proposal, the disciplinary appeals process would extend to the agency’s elected board of directors — a facet opposed by the Peace Officers Research Association of California, a statewide police lobbying group.

The Swanson bill, which does not include the BART board in the appeals process, has the support of PORAC, according to the organization’s president, Ron Cottingham.

The other BART legislation being reviewed today was submitted by Democratic Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, a former member of The City’s Board of Supervisors. Ammiano’s proposal, which does not include any sort of citizen board, would create an Office of Citizen Complaints that could recommend police disciplinary measures to the BART board of directors, a caveat that has been opposed by PORAC.

Ammiano spokesman Quintin Mecke said the assemblyman is open to all possibilities for combining the two pieces of legislation, but he has concerns that the disciplinary measures of Swanson’s bill are not stringent enough.

Dugger and BART board member Carol Ward Allen said they would like to see aspects of the bills combined, including the provision that the disciplinary appeals process go through the BART board. However, Ward Allen and Dugger said it’s important for a bill to pass, especially since the separate proposals must be approved at the committee level this month in order to remain on the legislative schedule and be in effect by the end of this year.

Approval by the state Legislature is necessary because each piece of legislation amends the state statute that created BART in 1957.

If the independent oversight committee is approved, it would mark another development in a series of changes to the transit agency’s Police Department. In the past year, BART has initiated two independent separate investigations into its Police Department — one an overall view of the force, the other focusing specifically on the New Year’s Day shooting — increased police presence at stations, tripled the required number of training hours for its officers and updated its use-of-force review policies.

The police force is also in the midst of hiring a new chief, following the Dec. 30 resignation of Gary Gee, who drew a strong rebuke from the community for his handling of the Grant case.


Department oversight in hands of state Assembly

Tuesday, the Public Safety Committee will discuss two Assembly bills that will offer different versions of oversight for BART police.

AB 1586
Sponsor: Assemblyman Sandré Swanson, D-Oakland
•Would create an 11-person citizen advisory committee to review police action.
•Nine members would be selected by individuals on BART’s board of directors to represent the agency’s nine districts; one member would be selected by police union officials; and the other member would be an at-large member selected by the BART board as a whole.
•Would create an independent auditor position to work with the citizen oversight committee on police complaints and grievances.
•Final disciplinary measures would rest with the BART general manager.

AB 312
Sponsor: Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco
•Would create an Office of Citizen Complaints, with the director being appointed based on recommendations from the District Attorney Offices of Contra Costa, San Francisco and Alameda counties.
•Office of Citizen Complaints would review police conduct and make disciplinary recommendations to BART’s chief of police, and, under certain circumstances, to the BART board of directors.

Source: BART

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Will Reisman

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