Six years of police reforms
Six years after the tragic shooting death of Oscar Grant III focused attention on the BART Police Department (BPD), BART and BPD continue their efforts to reshape and reform themselves to meet the needs of the community BART serves.
Among the steps BART took immediately after the January 1, 2009 tragedy was to hire the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives (NOBLE) to conduct a top-to-bottom review of BPD.
The NOBLE report has led to ongoing changes within BPD as well as the creation of an independent mechanism to ensure accountability.
The BPD has embraced a vision to be a leader in innovative police. Chief Kenton W. Rainey, hired in June 2010, has reorganized the department in an effort to ensure BPD’s actions align with its vision. An increased focus on community policing, expanded training, increased visibility of officers on trains and greater transparency are among the reforms, as noted in a 2013 audit discussed below.
Another key area of concern the NOBLE report addressed was the lack of civilian oversight of BPD.
In response, the BART Board of Directors adopted a two part civilian oversight system. It consists of the Office of the Independent Police Auditor (OIPA) and the Citizen Review Board (CRB). Each has its own responsibilities and functions but they share a common goal: increasing transparency and accountability.
The Office of the Independent Police Auditor reports directly to the BART Board. The OIPA receives complaints of misconduct, investigates complaints involving excessive force, racial profiling, sexual harassment, sexual orientation bias, use of deadly force and suspicious/wrongful deaths.
It also reviews BPD’s own complaint investigations that are conducted by BPD’s Internal Affairs division, monitors officer-involved shootings, makes policy recommendations, publishes reports about complaint investigations and their findings and conducts public outreach.
The Citizen Review Board, unlike the OIPA, is an all-volunteer organization. The 11-member CRB receives complaints of misconduct, reviews OIPA’s investigative findings, reviews all changes to BPD policy, reports on BPD progress in implementing recommendations such as those in the NOBLE report, will participate in selection of future Chiefs of Police and conducts public outreach.
Several key aspects of this two-pronged approach make civilian oversight of BPD particularly effective. BART civilian oversight structure includes disciplinary recommendations up to and including termination, where appropriate. Officers are required to cooperate at penalty of discipline and the Chief of Police cannot unilaterally overrule civilian oversight findings. OIPA has unfettered access to BPD records. Perhaps most important, the civilian oversight structure is wholly independent of BPD.
While the civilian oversight structure and the police department are separate, they share a commitment to improvement. In January 2014, an independent auditor praised BPD’s progress on NOBLE recommendations under the leadership of Chief Kenton W. Rainey. The audit evaluated the progress BPD has made in implementing 55 NOBLE recommendations.
"This audit serves as a barometer of our organizational change efforts—and it states BART PD has made significant and substantial progress since the original 2009 NOBLE Management Audit," BART Police Chief Kenton Rainey said. “Not only did we adopt a strategic direction, we reorganized the department, implemented stronger community policing initiatives, updated our policies and procedures and enhanced training of our officers.”