By Mieasha Harris
The Richmond Recreation Complex held a BART forum for the community Wednesday, Sept. 26, where Mark Smith and Kobia West of the Office of the Independent Police Auditor (OIPA) spoke about public oversight of BART police.
It was announced at the meeting that BART police officers will soon be equipped with cameras on their sunglasses and lapels to record encounters with civilians, one of many ways the OIPA is pushing for more safety and fairness for all parties involved in incidents.
“We make sure all people obtain effective independent oversight” of the BART Police Department. Smith said. “Our job is to make sure they (BART Police) are doing their job in the community.”
The OIPA was formed a year ago to be a liaison between the public who ride BART and the assigned police officers who patrol the various train stations. The office was created in the aftermath of the shooting death of Oscar Grant by BART Police Officer Johannes Mehserle in 2009.
OIPA’s purpose is to accept complaints of misconduct; investigate allegations of unnecessary or excessive use of force, racial profiling, sexual harassment, wrongful deaths, etc; review internal affairs investigations conducted by BART Police Department; and to respond to scene of officer-involved shooting incidents and monitor the ensuring BART Police Department investigation.
Also present were four of the 11-member Citizens Review Board, which accepts report findings from the OIPA and investigates cases.
According to Sharon Kidd, vice chair of the review board, “The goal of the Citizen Review Board is to provide an effective, independent citizen oversight system that promotes integrity.”
For information on the OIPA, contact firstname.lastname@example.org, 510-874-7477 or www.bart.gov/policeauditor.