February 2, 2009
Dear BART Rider/Bay Area Resident:
BART has received hundreds of letters and emails about the shooting of Oscar Grant on New Year’s Day at the Fruitvale BART Station. While we would like to provide a more personal response to everyone who took the time to communicate with us, the number of letters and e-mails limit our ability to do so. Nevertheless, it is important to us that you receive an acknowledgement of your taking time to contact us.
We would like to start by saying that this incident serves as a tragic event in every respect for all involved; its consequences are irreversible. We have extended our condolences (both publicly and privately) to the family and friends of Oscar Grant for their loss. We have cooperated fully with the District Attorney to conduct an investigation, which resulted in the District Attorney filing charges against the former BART officer, and we are working hard to prevent this from ever happening again.
Some have said that BART did not immediately take this incident seriously enough. We want to assure you that nothing less than our full attention has been devoted to completing the investigation and initiating efforts to restore community trust. Beginning on January 1st, nine BART detectives worked diligently to conduct a thorough and complete investigation in full cooperation with the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office. In parallel, the District Attorney’s Office conducted its own independent investigation. Alameda County District Attorney Thomas Orloff decided, based on the evidence presented to him, to bring criminal charges against the former officer.
During the press conference to announce his decision to file charges, the District Attorney thanked the BPD for their investigation, which he said facilitated his ability to bring charges. Mr. Orloff also indicated that the District Attorney’s Office is not currently pursuing charges against any of the other officers on scene at the time of the shooting. Last week, additional video footage became available to us that raised concerns about the actions of another police officer. We can assure you that this new information will be thoroughly investigated with appropriate action taken in close cooperation with the District Attorney so as to not compromise the prosecution of the criminal case.
Our investigation demonstrates that no one is above the law, and everyone is entitled to due process under the law. BART investigated this shooting thoroughly and treated the investigation and information no differently because the suspect involved was a police officer. The District Attorney will now prosecute this case against Mr. Mehserle, who will have to stand trial for the crime with which he is charged. We must now let due process take its course. While the former officer did invoke his rights under the law to not reveal information, we hope that the process of law will answer your questions as well as ours.
We want you to know that this incident is not reflective of the BART organization or its police force. The 206 sworn officers of the BART Police Department work everyday to ensure the safety of the more than 100 million customers who ride BART every year. BART officers are professionals whose training exceeds the principles established by the State of California Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training.
BART is not immune to crime that also occurs in the communities through which our system runs; our officers are essential to the safety of our customers. We will work to restore the public’s confidence that we will protect our riding public, we will treat people with respect, and we will continue to guard against crime on the BART system.
The Board of Directors recently established a BART Police Department Review Committee that will conduct an in-depth review of BPD policies, procedures and in-service training, will change those things that need to be changed, and will seek to find opportunities for improvement. The committee will also examine models of citizen oversight as it considers such a body to oversee BART police operations.
BART will continue the work that is already underway to rebuild community trust. Many hours have been devoted to listening to community concerns, meeting with community leaders, and participating in community meetings and discussion forums. BART will continue to keep the public informed by posting updates and information on www.bart.gov.
BART’s vision is to continue to provide a high-quality transit service that supports a sustainable region. Our values include leadership, partnerships, excellence, sustainability, and diversity. Our mission is to provide safe, clean, reliable and customer-friendly regional public transit service that increases mobility and accessibility, strengthens community and economic prosperity and helps preserve the Bay Area’s environment.
For over 36 years, BART has been a strong community partner that plays a vital role in the mobility, economic growth and community development of this region. We believe that BART can learn, grow and improve as a result of this tragedy and we will continue to partner with the community as we move forward. We look forward to and welcome your input.
Thomas M. Blalock, P.E.
President, Board of Directors
Carole Ward Allen,
Chair, BPD Review Committee