DESPITE THAT former BART police officer Johannes Mehserle has now been charged with a criminal act, the events of Jan. 1 still lie heavy on our hearts. The officer-involved shooting that resulted in the death of Oscar Grant III serves as a tragedy for all concerned. We have extended condolences to his family and friends, and to the community that mourns his death. Now, it is time for healing and taking action to ensure that such a tragedy will never again occur.
On Jan. 12, BART police turned the results of its investigation over to the Alameda County district attorney, who on Jan. 15 filed charges alleging murder. This investigation has shown that no one is above the law, but everyone is entitled to due process. As the case begins to play out in our legal system, our BART board is focused on the future and restoring trust in BART as a public agency.
We want the public to know that this one incident is not reflective of BART's 3,200 employees who work each day to ensure the safety of our riders. We also want to assure the public that BART will initiate such changes as needed in our police operations, including looking into establishing a civilian review board and providing information following police and other emergency incidents that is transparent, truthful and swift.
We took the first step on Jan. 11 as we met with community leaders and elected officials. We listened as many provided input on where we must go from here. We also established a committee of our board to examine models of citizen police oversight review boards so we may apply the best practices as to how BART will proceed with this new public involvement tool.
We will engage the public in looking into establishing a citizen review board that shares the values and vision of the diverse community that we serve. In doing so, we want to do everything to ensure transparency and open and honest communication with the public, media, elected officials and BART employees.
The end result will focus on creating a trusted and reliable process so that everyone knows what is going on, even if we may be limited in what details of an investigation we may make public.
We will closely follow the court case, as we want to know what happened on Jan. 1. While the former officer invoked his rights under the law to not reveal information, we hope that the process of law will answer our unanswered questions.
For 36 years, you have entrusted us to provide you and your loved ones safe, reliable and comfortable transportation. Sadly, on Jan. 1, we let many of you down. But we are committed to using this tragedy to restore your faith in us and to making BART a better system and a more caring system than it ever was before.
Carole Ward Allen is a BART board member and chairwoman of the BART Police Department Review Committee.