Calif. Puts BART Police Under Civilian Oversight After Grant Killing

Two new efforts to keep transit cops accountable after repeated violent incidents.

By Julianne Hing Jul 19, 2010

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed AB 1586 on Friday to create two different accountability mechanisms to oversee the BART police force as a response to Oscar Grant’s death a year and a half ago. Ex-BART police officer Johannes Mehserle shot and killed Oscar Grant, a 22-year-old unarmed father, as he lay face down on a train platform on New Years Day 2009. Mehserle was convicted of involuntary manslaughter.

AB 1586 allows BART to appoint a police auditor to review BART police actions and allows for the creation of an 11-member civilian oversight board to help the auditor review police activity and recommend appropriate disciplinary action. The board will not have the ability to discipline police officers or suggest policy, that power would remain with the BART general manager. The bill was written by Oakland Assemblywoman Sandre Swanson.

The news of the civilian oversight board came after another BART police officer Tasered a 35-year-old man who skipped out on paying his fare last month. After conducting a review, BART defended the officer’s actions last week.

BART police officers were authorized to carry Tasers again in June. A Taser ban had been instituted after Oscar Grant was killed. Mehserle claimed during the trial that the shooting was accidental, and that he meant to pull and fire his Taser rather than his gun when he killed Grant.