OAKLAND (AP) — The San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit police chief said Wednesday he's asked the department's former auditor to review progress in meeting reforms instituted after the controversial fatal shooting of an unarmed black man by a white transit officer.
Chief Kenton Rainey said Patrick Oliver of the Ohio-based National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives (NOBLE) will begin his assessment next month. Oliver oversaw an audit of BART police and made recommendations after a scathing report in 2010 criticized the department's handling of the fatal shooting of Oscar Grant by former officer Johannes Mehserle on an Oakland train station platform on New Year's Day 2009.
The shooting was recorded by several bystanders, sparked public outcry and numerous violent protests in the city over what many claimed was police brutality. Mesherle was sentenced for involuntary manslaughter.
Among the reforms the department adopted three years ago were improved hiring practices, increased officer training, better reporting of incidents involving use of force and better relations with the community.
"We've made some progress on the recommendations, and we have a long way to go," Rainey said. "We are constantly evolving and adapting to the needs for service."
Rainey said while crime across BART is down overall, he is worried about the rise in cellphone and tablet thefts, which mirrors a national trend.
"We're good in some areas, but those thefts (of electronic devices), that's really driving our crime right now," Rainey said.
Rainey's announcement comes a day ahead of Thursday's private screening in Oakland of "Fruitvale Station," a critically-acclaimed film about Grant's final hours. The movie won the Grand Jury Prize and the Audience Award for U.S. dramatic film at this year's Sundance Film Festival.
Grant's uncle, Cephus "Bobby" Johnson, said Wednesday that that his family, as well as a foundation in Grant's name, will continue to monitor BART's police reforms.
Johnson said that while he respects Rainey, he questions the timing of the chief's announcement.
"It gives the appearance that they are doing some sort of damage control in light of the movie's upcoming release," Johnson said. "I hope the investigators conducting this review ask commuters how they feel about the BART police and I hope they are transparent with their findings."
Rainey said that he began seeking a review on the department's reforms last year after contacting Bob Stewart, a retired law enforcement official who also worked on the BART police audit in 2010 and currently works with a consulting group hired by the embattled Oakland police department.
Rainey said Stewart recommended Oliver to conduct the BART police reform review.