Being on this beat, I ended up on June 15th at a meeting of the BART Police department sobcommittee, who are talking about developing a citizens review committee for BART police. Its a really important process, and it's in direct reaction to the killing of Oscar Grant.
Audio of the entire 3 hour meeting can be found here: http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2009/06/17/18602165.php
Here are some really basic notes.
BART Police Department (BPD) Review Sub-committee Meeting on Civilian Oversight
June 15, 2009.
Here's a basic summary of the meeting, broken down by committee member. By reading them all, you should get an idea of what happened:
The members of the subcommittee are: Reginald Lyles, consultant with the BPD Review Committee, 20-year Berkeley police officer, and Deacon at Allen Temple Baptist; Donald Casimere, Confidential Investigative and Appeals Officer with the Richmond Police Commission and former Richmond police officer; BART Board Director Tom Radulovich, BPD Review Committee member; BART Board Director Lynette Sweet, BPD Review Committee member; Reverend Daniel Buford, AllenTemple Baptist; Jesse Sekhon, President BART Police Officers' Association; Gregg Savage, President BART Police Managers' Association;(was not physically present but listening in on conference call) and Minister Keith Mohammad, Nation of Islam, who was not present for this meeting.
Lyles--said the key result of this process has to be inspiring confidence in the people who the BART police serve. With this in mind, he submitted to the committee a ‘hybrid’ model—something of a compromise between the 2 options that were being considered at the previous meeting.
Sekhon-- questioned why discipline was becoming central to the discussion. He said he thought that that point of having civilian oversight was to make the department transparent and find out the truth, not to have civilians involved in the discipline process.
Lyles--responded that the police union would have to give up something. This committee was not meeting in a vacuum, but because of ‘an incident’ (referring the killing of Oscar Grant).
Casimere—said he believes the BART police chief should be kept out of the discipline process. He said he thinks that the committee needed to hear from the police chief before coming to a decision on what form of oversight to create.
Dugger--objected to part of the hybrid proposal that allowed up to one year for an investigation and resolution to conclude. (Under California state law, discipline must be handed out within 1 year).
BART Police Chief Gary Gee was then asked for his input; he said he had a problem with all the plans being considered today, because he questions citizens’ ability to judge an officers intentions.
Then BART Board of Directors member Joel Keller, who is not a member of this committee, came up and presented his own proposal, building on the hybrid model being discussed. (See attachment with headline ‘REVISED DISCIPLINARY PROCESS’ also embeded at bottom of this post).
The basic complaint process would be as follows:
1. Police auditor investigates complaints filed by citizens.
2. Auditors findings, including recommendations for action, or dismissal, submitted to Citizen Board for review. If Citizens Board agrees, report is submitted to Chief of police who will carry out recommended action.
3. If chief disagrees with recommendation, he can appeal to BART General Manager
4. If Citizens Board disagrees with Auditors findings, they try to reach a consensus with auditor. If they can’t reach agreement, they appeal to Chief of police. Chief decides.
5. If Citizens Board disagrees with Chief’s decision, they appeal to the BART general manager. GM then decides and Chief carries out decision.
6. If Citizens board disagrees with General manager with a 2/3 super majority, they appeal to BART Board of Directors. BART Board of directors requires a 2/3 super majority for approval. Boards decision is final and will be carried out by chief.
Quinton Mecke from State Legislator Tom Ammiano’s office, commented that requiring a supermajority of BART Board members to approve a discipline recommendation was too much. Significant discussion followed on the 2/3rds supermajority issue.
It was pointed out by Keller and Sekhon that under California state law, public safety officers have a property right to their job, and so a high standard must be met to fire them. They wanted the 2/3rds supermajority.
Sweet and Radulovich were the only 2 committee members that seemed resistant to the supermajority, and Sweet soon agreed to it. In the end, the committee took a straw poll, and voted 6-1 to go ahead with the proposal submitted by Keller, with a few minor changes. Radulovich voted no, and Casimere had already left by the time of the vote.
Sweet-started discussing possible make up of the citizens oversight committee. She suggested 1 member would be appointed by each BART Board member, 1 would be appointed by the Police Department, and 1 would be appointed by the BPD review sub-committee.
Keller’s proposal called for only 120 days for the auditor and/or citizen’s board to conclude their process, or else it would be turned over to the chief. The committee thought this was too short, and changed it to 180 days. There were a few other minor changes to Keller’s proposal, but the committee as a whole supported it.
The committee will be meeting Wednesday June 17th at 10AM. At that meeting, they will discuss several issues, including:
--When to schedule a public meeting to get feedback on the proposal for civilian oversight.
--Who will hire the independent auditor who will do the investigations of citizens’ complaints? What role will the oversight committee have in that hiring process?
--Who will choose the committee?
--What is the role of the citizens committee in hiring and disciplining the BART police chief, since he himself is one of the potential levels of appeal?