A BART police oversight plan with an independent auditor and a civilian board that can recommend officer discipline was unanimously approved Thursday by the agency's board of directors.
"The citizens of Oakland are so happy that our anxiety and pain have been answered by the BART board. We welcome this new plan," said Aurea Lewis, founder of Oakland's International African Methodist Church.
Like many in the community, Lewis participated in the eight-month process that created the plan. Calls for independent oversight arose after the Jan. 1 fatal shooting of Oscar Grant III by a BART officer, who has since resigned.
The plan features an independent auditor and an 11-member citizen board that will scrutinize investigations into alleged police misconduct. It will cost about $500,000 to set up the auditor's office, pay citizen board expenses and hire three people, including the auditor.
Public input was a vital part of the plan, with public meetings where BART representatives first gathered ideas and later shared drafts of the proposal. An initial plan called for an independent auditor to oversee BART police but made no provision for civilian oversight. The 11-member board was added to the mix after community members demanded it.
Each of BART's 10 directors will appoint one member of the citizen oversight group, with BART police associations appointing the remaining slot. In another bow to community input, people who are currently serving as sworn police officers are not eligible for the citizen board.
Some community members and one public official, Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco, have criticized the plan, which has a series of convoluted checks and balances.
Under the plan, if the auditor and the civilian board agree, the two entities then submit their recommendations to the BART police chief. If the chief disagrees, he can appeal to the general manager. If the auditor and civilian board disagree with the general manager's decision, a two-thirds vote of the civilian oversight board and a two-thirds vote of the BART board of directors are required to overrule the decision.
BART director Joel Keller has said it would be time-consuming if every matter should be heard by the board. Keller said the difference between a simple majority and a two-thirds majority is only one vote.
In order to put the full plan into action, California's legislature must change a law known as the BART Act to allow the auditor to report to the BART board and to allow the board a role in police discipline.
The BART Act is the 1957 California legislation that created BART and defined how it would operate.
With only four weeks remaining in the current legislative session, BART board members cited the need for a unanimous vote.
"We need support to get a bill to amend the BART Act that will allow these changes," BART director Tom Radulovich told his fellow board members in a presentation before the vote.