OIPA FAQ's


FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS (FAQs)

What is the Office of the Independent Police Auditor (OIPA)?
Is OIPA part of the BART Police Department?
Is OIPA part of BART?
What is the relationship between OIPA and the BART Police Citizen Review Board?
How do I file a complaint?
What if I have a complaint about a BART employee who is not a police officer?
Do I need an officer’s name and/or badge number to file a complaint?
What will happen after I file a complaint?
How does OIPA monitor BPD Internal Affairs investigations?
What is “Mediation?”
Will a complainant ever find out whether there was discipline imposed on an officer?
What is the OIPA outreach program?

 



  What is the Office of the Independent Police Auditor (OIPA)?
OIPA was formed by Assembly Bill 1586, signed by the Governor of California in 2010 to provide effective, independent oversight of the BART Police Department (BPD) by ensuring that internal police accountability systems function properly, that behavioral, procedural and policy deficiencies are identified and appropriately addressed, and that complaints are investigated through an objective and fair process. The operation of OIPA and the scope of its duties are defined by the BART Citizen Oversight Model  (Model). The Model also defines the role of the 11-member BART Police Citizen Review Board (BPCRB).

  Is OIPA part of the BART Police Department?
The Model provides that OIPA shall, at all times, be totally independent. All investigations, findings, recommendations and requests made by OIPA reflect the views of OIPA alone. OIPA is, therefore, entirely independent of the BPD, but has been granted unfettered access to BPD reports and personnel records pursuant to the Model. 

  Is OIPA part of BART?
OIPA is staffed by BART employees who report directly to the elected Board of Directors (Board). OIPA does not report to the BART General Manager or to the Chief of the BPD and, as discussed above, OIPA remains totally independent under the terms of the Model.

  What is the relationship between OIPA and the BART Police Citizen Review Board?
OIPA provides staff support to the BPCRB and provides monthly reports to the BPCRB regarding complaints received, open cases, completed investigations, dispositions, and recommendations for corrective action, including discipline and dismissals. OIPA presents investigative findings and disciplinary recommendations to the BPCRB, who may agree or disagree with those findings and recommendations prior to submission of those findings and recommendations to the Chief of Police for appropriate action pursuant to the Model.

  How do I file a complaint?
OIPA will accept complaints no matter how they are transmitted to our office. A complainant who feels they are a victim of on-duty misconduct, or who is the parent or guardian of such a victim may call, email, submit an online form, send a fax, walk into our office, or speak up at a BPCRB meeting. Complaints received by BART Customer Service or by the Board will be routed to our office. It is our goal to receive complaints no matter how the complainant prefers to communicate with us, and it is our policy to respond to every complainant within 24 hours of receipt. OIPA will also provide the services of an interpreter if necessary to receive a complaint from a member of the public.

  What if I have a complaint about a BART employee who is not a police officer?
Our office only handles complaints about the alleged misconduct of BPD officers and employees. Complaints about any other aspect of the BART system or its employees should be directed to BART Customer Service.

  Do I need an officer’s name and/or badge number to file a complaint?
While it may be helpful for investigators to have an officer’s identifying information, it is certainly not necessary to do so to file a complaint. Both OIPA and BPD Internal Affairs have resources available to use whatever information you are able to provide to help identify the officer or employee in question. To that end, it is helpful to have information regarding the location and time of day that an incident occurred.

  What will happen after I file a complaint?
OIPA will conduct an initial intake interview with most (virtually all) complainants in order to determine the appropriate action. OIPA is authorized to investigate all complaints and allegations of police officer misconduct regarding unnecessary or excessive use of force, use of deadly force, suspicious or wrongful deaths, racial profiling, and bias or harassment based on sexual orientation or gender identity. OIPA will determine whether the complaint falls into one of these categories, and all other complaints received by OIPA will be forwarded to BPD Internal Affairs for appropriate action. If the complaint involves one of the categories mentioned above, OIPA will undertake to complete a through and detailed investigation including interviewing all subject and witness officers, interviewing available civilian witnesses and BART employees, and reviewing all available video, audio, and documentary evidence before reaching a finding. OIPA will also provide regular updates to complainants regarding the progress of the investigation.

  How does OIPA monitor BPD Internal Affairs investigations?
If OIPA routes a complaint to BPD Internal Affairs, that process will be monitored by OIPA through completion. OIPA will review BPD complaint investigations to determine whether the investigations are complete, thorough, objective, and fair. OIPA may, at its discretion, monitor or require follow-up investigation into any citizen complaint or allegation that is handled by BPD.

  What is “Mediation?”
Mediation is a form of alternative dispute resolution based on voluntary participation by all parties to a dispute, and it focuses on understanding, problem solving, and reconciliation rather than fact finding, determining guilt or innocence, and assigning responsibility. Mediation can often yield the optimal outcome of an incident involving alleged misconduct, both for the complainant and the involved employee.  It may be the most effective way for a complainant to feel that his or her concern was genuinely listened to, and it presents an opportunity for an employee to share his or her views about the incident that gave rise to the complaint in a non- interrogatory setting. By maximizing the chance that each party will listen to the other's point of view, mediation often makes it possible for both sides to gain a new understanding of each other and of why the interaction between them might have escalated into a conflict in the first place.

  Will a complainant ever find out whether there was discipline imposed on an officer?
California state law strictly limits the information that can be made public in connection with the discipline of peace officers (see Penal Code §832.7). OIPA and the BPCRB discuss investigative findings and recommendations for discipline during confidential, closed meetings. OIPA does communicate to complainants the results of its investigations, and the specific allegations that were examined without divulging protected information including any identifying information about the subject officer or officers.

  What is the OIPA outreach program?
OIPA strives to inform people who live and work within the BART District about our office and the services we provide. To that end, OIPA staff endeavors to meet with students, educators, community-based organizations, advocacy groups, neighborhood councils, social clubs, and general BART ridership to generate awareness of our office as a resource.