Governor signs bill into law authorizing citizen oversight of BART Police


Governor signs bill into law authorizing citizen oversight of BART Police

Marks major milestone for BART Police

BART and the Bay Area Community are marking a major milestone in improvement of the BART Police Department with the newly-signed law authorizing citizen oversight of the transit agency’s police department.

California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has signed into law AB 1586, which was authored by Assemblymember Sandre Swanson.

The law allows BART to establish an independent police auditor and citizen oversight board to review BART police actions and assist, if necessary, with BART police disciplinary actions. It’s the latest step in a series of improvements BART has launched in response to the tragic shooting death of passenger Oscar Grant at Fruitvale Station on January 1, 2009 by now-former BART Police Officer Johannes Mehserle.

"We would like to thank Assemblymember Sandre Swanson, the Governor, the Legislature and especially the community for helping guide us on this very important, but tumultuous, journey," BART Board President James Fang said. "I believe citizen oversight will go a long way to improve BART's policing services. My hope is that the public will soon share the same confidence in BART's policing services as they do in BART's ability to consistently deliver the high quality, on-time train service the agency is known around the world for."

"The past year and a half has been a difficult time for the communities BART serves following the heartbreaking death of Oscar Grant," Director Carole Ward Allen said. Director Ward Allen is chair of BART’s Police Department Review Committee. "So, it comes as great news that Governor Schwarzenegger has signed into law the legislation we needed to move forward with BART’s strong police oversight program. This gives us the tools we need to help ensure the BART Police Department meets the high standards the Bay Area deserves."

"To prevent another Oscar Grant tragedy, BART recognizes that systemic changes need to be made with respect to their training of officers and the investigation of complaints against those officers," Assemblymember Sandre Swanson said. "AB 1586 is a strong step toward rebuilding community confidence and trust in the police officers who are responsible for their protection."

"This achievement by Assemblyman Swanson and the state legislature is important because it provides BART the opportunity to improve BART’s police oversight, appointing both an independent police auditor and an 11-member citizen review board," said Director Lynette Sweet, who is a member of the BART Police Department Review Committee. "We need both of these functions to assure that our police force has important community input – and that BART will provide the communities it serves with the best security and police force that we can. The legislation carried by Assemblyman Swanson and now signed into law by the Governor will do just that."

Law Authorizes BART to Create Citizen Oversight Structure
AB 1586 authorizes BART to: (1) appoint an independent police auditor to conduct important review of specific BART police actions and (2) appoint an 11-member citizen oversight board to assist the auditor in oversight of the BART Police Department and recommend appropriate disciplinary action – if necessary.

Citizen Oversight is just one component in a series of reforms, including the hiring of new police Chief Kenton Rainey last month. BART General Manager Dorothy W. Dugger and the BART Police Department Review Committee have laid out clear goals for the new chief – many of which the department has already started implementing. They include:

  • Increasing officer visibility on trains, in stations
  • Substantially exceeding POST requirements to ensure officers’ knowledge & skills stay current and well-versed
  • Building trust and establishing long-lasting partnerships with the community
  • Ensuring policies, practices, procedures and best practices are regularly updated

 

Assembly Bill No. 1586 (72k .pdf)

AB 1586 Prepared Testimony (36k .pdf)

Now on BARTtv -- A Major Milestone for BART Police Improvement: Law Authorizing Citizen Oversight

Audio -- New BART Police Chief Kenton Rainey speaks with radio talk show host Tavis Smiley