BART chooses organization to conduct top-to-bottom review of Police Department
Today the BART Board of Directors unanimously selected an organization to conduct a comprehensive top-to-bottom review of the BART Police Department following the January 1, 2009, officer-involved fatal shooting on the Fruitvale BART Station platform.
"The National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives (NOBLE) will look into all aspects of the BART Police Department," BART Board Member Carole Ward Allen said. Ward Allen chairs the Board’s newly created BART Police Department Review Committee whose aim is to provide greater focus on the exercise of BART Police responsibilities and, among other things, assist the full Board in establishing civilian oversight of BART Police. "This is the latest in a series of significant steps we’re taking to ensure a similar incident does not occur again," Ward Allen said. The review should take approximately four months and the cost of the contract is $127,688.
WHAT NOBLE WILL DO:
The review will provide an independent assessment of the fundamental aspects of BART Police including but not limited to:
- Culture and the expectations of customers and the communities BART Police serve
- Recruitment, hiring and promotion standards & practices to determine how well equipped BART Police are to promote safety, customer service, public trust and effective policing in the diverse communities BART serves
- Training and equipment, including use of force, conduct of investigations, diversity, cultural awareness and sensitivity and avoidance of racial profiling
- Policies and procedures to determine if they are comprehensive, reflect best practices and are effective in directing a professional, well-regarded and trusted police force
- Internal investigatory practices for fairness, objectivity and thoroughness
"The goal of the study will be to provide BART with evaluation results and recommendations that will help us identify any changes we need to make to ensure the BART Police Department is structured and administered effectively and that the department follows the industry’s best practices as appropriate in the environment in which BART operates," Joel Keller, Vice Chair of the BART Police Department Review Committee said.
As part of this process, NOBLE proposes a community engagement methodology that is designed to bring law enforcement and concerned citizens together to identify community concerns and apply principles of community policing to create a shared vision and joint strategy to address concerns.
"What we really liked about NOBLE’s proposal is that the organization truly demonstrated it understands the value of engaging the community in the process while at the same time it showed it has the expertise to conduct a comprehensive top to bottom review of our police force," BART Board Member Lynette Sweet said. Sweet sits on the committee and was one of the members who helped evaluate proposals for this contract. "This study will provide us with findings and recommendations that will get the job done in four months at which time we’ll know what our police do well and what they need to do to improve."
NOBLE was founded in September 1976. NOBLE is committed to conducting research and sponsoring programs that lead to the formation of policies and procedures to improve the delivery of law enforcement services. NOBLE has a long history helping numerous police departments across the country with issues including:
- Community oriented policing
- Use of force policies
- Crime prevention and fear reduction programs
- Cultural diversity training
- Victim's assistance programs
- Racial profiling
- Religious violence reduction programs
OTHER STEPS THAT BART HAS TAKEN SINCE THE SHOOTING
Since the officer-involved shooting, BART has been conscientiously working to ensure that a similar incident does not occur again. Some of the major steps BART has taken include:
- Completing criminal investigation: On January 12, 2009, BART Police completed the criminal investigation of now former officer Johannes Mesherle and turned the matter over to the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office. The DA filed murder charges against Mehserle and his preliminary hearing is May 18, 2009.
- Completing criminal investigation of all other officers present on the platform: BART completed the criminal investigation of the other officers who were on the platform during the shooting. BART Police turned this investigation over to the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office on March 20, 2009. The DA will determine what if any charges to file against any other officer.
- Hiring independent firm for internal affairs investigation of all officers present on platform: BART retained the Meyers Nave law firm on February 11, 2009 to perform its internal affairs investigation to ensure that it is a complete and independent.
- Establish civilian oversight for the BART Police Department: The Committee has been reviewing the different civilian oversight models to determine what is best suited to BART and the communities it serves. That work will accelerate in May when BART begins to hold public forums to solicit input on a model. In addition, there’s legislation in Sacramento that would require BART to create civilian oversight for its police force. On April 13, 2009, the Chair of the BART Police Department Review Committee on behalf of the Board, the General Manager, Chief of Police and the Presidents of the two BART police associations, signed a joint letter to the Bay Area legislative delegation assuring them of BART’s intention to create civilian oversight of BART Police and to assure the delegation that BART is actively working toward that goal.