BART Board approves dozens of modifications to strengthen police oversight
The BART Board of Directors has unanimously approved 39 recommendations meant to strengthen the BART Citizen Oversight Model for the BART Police Department. The modifications include clarifications and operational suggestions that will impact both the Office of the Independent Police Auditor (OIPA) and the BART Police Citizen Review Board (BPCRB). Notable changes include a more expansive definition of eligible complainants and enabling the Independent Police Auditor to investigate any type of misconduct allegations.
“I’m pleased the Board saw fit to approve these improvements to the oversight system,” said BART Independent Police Auditor Russell Bloom. “These revisions help BART keep pace with best practices in the arena of police oversight, which will help maintain accountability and improve community trust,” said Bloom.
“It’s a great step in moving the BART Police Department in line with progressive policing practices ensuring greater transparency and community engagement,” said BART Police Citizen Review Board Chair George Perezvelez.
The 39 recommendations approved by the BART Board come from a list of 54 proposals submitted by the OIR Group in June and July of 2017. The OIR Group is a civil rights consulting firm that was brought in to review the structure and functionality of the BART Police Oversight Model. The BART Board intends to discuss and consider implementing the additional 15 recommendations at a future meeting.
The reforms approved by the BART Board will allow the Independent Police Auditor to review all BPD use-of-force incidents. Other changes are intended to bring the oversight system in line with best practices in the field of civilian oversight of law enforcement. That includes the incorporation of understandings acknowledged in President Obama’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing.
Additional revisions approved by the BART Board include:
- Any person will now be permitted to file a complaint of misconduct and OIPA shall ensure that a timely, thorough, complete, objective and fair investigation is conducted. The current Model allows only victims, witnesses, and parents/guardians of minor victims to file a complaint with OIPA.
- The revised Model will provide OIPA the ability to investigate any allegation of misconduct that implicates the policies of BPD. The current Model provided that OIPA would conduct an independent investigation only where allegations of misconduct included excessive force, racial profiling, sexual orientation bias, sexual harassment, and the use of deadly force, and suspicious and wrongful deaths.
- While the current Model authorizes OIPA to monitor any allegation that is handled by BPD, the revised Model will expressly confer upon OIPA the authority and responsibility to review all use of force incidents by BPD regardless of whether the incident is the subject of a complaint. This revision will also allow OIPA to review uses of force that come to its attention in any manner, including via social media and news outlets.
- The Board voted to implement the recommendation that OIPA should publicly report on the internal review of any officer-involved shooting, in-custody death, or serious uses of force. Because OIPA is already authorized to require BPD to conduct follow-up investigation into any allegation or citizen complaint that is handled by BPD, OIPA is now granted the express authority to publicly report any resistance by BPD to such requests.
- OIPA will operate under an investigative paradigm under which BPD may avoid duplicative or parallel investigations of a single complaint by deferring such investigations to OIPA.
- The BPCRB shall report on each member’s vote regarding whether to agree with findings and recommendations from OIPA. In cases where a vote is not unanimous, the dissenters should set out their rationale for diverging from the majority’s determination.
- The current Model provides that the Chief of Police may appeal findings and recommendations from OIPA and the BPCRB in a confidential meeting with the BART General Manager whose decision on the matter shall be final. Under the revised Model, the General Manager shall convene a meeting to receive input from OIPA and the BPCRB prior to rendering a written decision on the appeal.