Community groups joined the BART Board today in urging state lawmakers to quickly pass a bill before the September recess so BART can establish citizen oversight of its police force this year.
"The time to act is now," 17-year-old Eric Fuller said. Fuller is a youth member of the MLK Jr. Freedom Center in Oakland, which is dedicated to peaceful solutions to conflict. "The community has raised its collective voice to work with BART to make significant changes to the BART Police Department. So, our lawmakers must understand that Bay Area residents can not wait until next year before any legislative changes are made. You must act immediately to ensure the safety of our community. The BART Police Department needs citizen oversight now."
On Thursday, August 13, in a unanimous vote, the BART Board of Directors reached a major milestone in delivering on its commitment to improve police services and public confidence by approving independent citizen oversight of the BART Police Department.
"The Board action was truly historic," BART Board Member Carole Ward Allen said. Ward Allen chairs the BART Police Department Review Committee, which Board President Thomas Blalock created following the January 1 shooting of Oscar Grant on the platform of Fruitvale Station by a former police officer. "What the Board approved has one of the strongest components of citizen oversight in the state of California. The process now moves to the state legislature. We urge our state representatives to take swift action so we can implement citizen oversight this year as we continue to work to make the BART Police Department the best it can be."
"We have a dedicated, professional and highly trained police force at BART and we want to keep it that way," Director Joel Keller said. Keller is the vice chair of the committee. "Citizen oversight, if done properly, can help us achieve that."
BART NEEDS CHANGE IN STATE LAW TO MOVE FORWARD
BART is a special district created by the state legislature and requires an amendment of the BART Act to create citizen oversight as adopted by the Board. The citizen oversight the Board adopted encompasses two major areas where legislative change is required to meet its stated purpose. The first area involves the creation of the position of independent police auditor. Because the auditor would report directly to the Board, the position requires an amendment to the BART Act. The second area requires amending the General Manager’s authority to provide a role for the auditor, citizen board and the BART Board in the discipline process for members of the police department.