BART Director Tom Radolivich, consultant Bob Murray, Director Carole Ward-Allen and GUM Dorothy Dugger listen to community input
It has been
nearly a year since the shooting death of Oscar Grant by BART police
officer Johannes Mehserle and judging from the low attendance at last
week's BART public input session, it seems that much of the public's
attention has shifted to other issues.
Despite the killing initially sparking protests by thousands of demonstrators, just 20 people attended a Dec. 17 public forum to give input on the desired criteria for the selection of BART’s new Chief of Police.
Police chief Gary Gee resigned in August and immediately went on medical leave. Although his leadership was criticized following Grant’s death, his decade as chief, and 31 years on the force were met with a standing ovation at his last BART board meeting on the morning of this forum.
BART Director Carole Ward Allen presided over the meeting on Thursday night, encouraging those in attendance to give their input on the “issues, challenges and opportunities” the new chief faces, and what background, experience and characteristics are desirable.
“We do not approach these questions in a vacuum,” said Ward Allen, who is chair of BART’s Police Oversight Review Committee. She said Grant’s shooting and meetings of the oversight committee created after his death initiated the public input process. “We definitely want you to look forwards, instead of backwards.”
The panel, including BART General Manager Dorothy Dugger, Bob Murray from consulting firm Bob Murray and Associates –who recently helped San Francisco find its new chief—and Director Tom Radolivich, spent an hour listening to community members and discussing educational requirements and community policing experience.
One of the few speakers to approach the microphone was Jack Bryson, father of two young men who were both on the Fruitvale BART platform Jan. 1 when Grant was shot.
“The next chief should have a community background,” Bryson said. “And know how to deal with different ethnic backgrounds and a diverse community.”
IndyBay journalist Dave Id came to record the hearing but felt obligated to speak in the absence of community members.
“I look around and there’s almost no community members here,” Id said. “The community has basically given up on you.” He added that “only two board members here, I think that reflects poorly on how seriously you are taking this.” He then reiterated the demand many made earlier this year that GM Dugger be fired.
Archbishop Aurea Lewis, of the California Council of Churches, emphasized the need for a “visionary” chief to lead the department in the future.
“We’re looking for a chief that can understand diversity,” Lewis said. “We’re looking for a chief to diversify his staff.” She suggests having someone inside the agency because “there are things we want them to know already.”
BART Police Officer’s Association President Jesse Sekhon asked the panel “If we’re trying to get the best candidate, why is the pay so low?” Dugger responded that the pay is determined based on a decade old compensation survey. The position pays up to $211,672 annually, according to Dugger.
Following the hour-long meeting, Sekhon said the 206 officers of BART police want the “best qualified candidate.”
Officers are looking for a chief to “raise the morale and someone that the community can trust,” Sekhon said.
Ward Allen attributed the meetings “sparse” attendance to the holidays, students’ final exams and a “natural drop off, especially when it comes down to doing the work.”
“I’m just proud we did what we promised the community that we were going to do.” Ward Allen said, referring to the forum. “You don’t have to have 2,000 to get a few good ideas. Sometimes you get more from a smaller crowd and I think we were able to accomplish that.”
What's the timeline for the BART poice chief hire?
The position opened December 8 and
will close Feb. 1. BART will conduct interviews in March with the final
selection being made by Dugger on March 29. Dugger has the sole
authority to hire BART’s new chief, but several board members –
including Radulivich – have indicated they want to be more involved.
The new chief is slated to begin work April 26.
An online survey on BART.gov will be available until Jan. 7 for the public to give input on the qualities and experience desired for the new BART police chief.