22-year-old Oscar Grant was killed by a BART police officer ten years ago this month. His death led to calls for reform of BART’s police department. Ten years later, has that reform happened? And has it worked?
News director Ben Trefny spoke with KALW’s Eli Wirtschafter.
After the shooting, an audit by the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives (NOBLE) showed that the BART Police were unprepared to deal with a situation like the one that lead to Grant’s killing. Parts of their policy manual hadn’t been updated since the ‘70s. The department was not being transparent, and where there was very little accountability.
The report also found that BART Police had poor practices for reporting when an officer had used force, and also poor practices for investigating what had happened afterward.
NOBLE called for BART to look at whether officers were being racially biased and to measure how many times BART officers were using force against people of different races and ages. The audit also called for an oversight committee, where regular citizens could hold police accountable.
According to a follow-up audit in 2013, BART saw the recommendations through. BART Police overhauled their policies, and were doing more racial bias training. The citizen review board has been in place since 2012. They take complaints against BART police, and can suggest discipline against BART officers, although in the end the decision is still up to BART’s general manager, whether to fire someone.
Today, there’s more oversight of the BART Police, but when you look at the numbers for when officers use force, two thirds of the time it’s against black people. That’s in a system where just 12 percent of riders are black. Another stat: Two thirds of the people who BART has banned from the system are black.
Just a year ago, another young black man was shot and killed by BART Police near the West Oakland Station. His name was Sahleem Tindle. In this case Tindle had a gun, and he was wrestling with someone else when a BART officer shot him in the back three times. No charges were brought against the officer.