BART board to vote on contract extension with law enforcement unions

Collective bargaining agreements codify the community ambassador program

The BART Board of Directors will vote Thursday on whether to ratify contract extensions with the unions that represent the agency’s law enforcement officers in an effort to lock in agreements despite ongoing economic uncertainty caused by the pandemic.

Existing collective bargaining agreements with the BART Police Officers’ Association and the BART Police Managers’ Association are set to expire on July 1, 2022. If approved, these contract extensions would push that date back to June 30, 2025.

The BART Police Department has been the subject of great scrutiny in recent years, especially since Oscar Grant was shot and killed by law enforcement officers at Oakland’s Fruitvale station in 2009.

And while data continues to show definitive racial bias in BART PD’s enforcement and use-of-force patterns, a new police chief and a more progressive board have made strides to rectify its reputation and its reality, most notably through the creation of a community ambassador program to respond to calls involving substance abuse or mental health crisis.

The collective bargaining agreements up for approval on Thursday codify that new approach.

They institutionalize the Progressive Policing and Community Engagement Bureau, classifying any police officer or sergeant assigned to this unit as eligible for increased special assignment pay, which should cost about $125,000 total annually.

With approval, the agreements allow BART PD to immediately begin the hiring process to round out the 40-person bureau that will include community outreach specialists, crisis intervention experts with a “social work background” and transit ambassadors with “community service experience.”

They will be deployed throughout the rail system to address certain situations that don’t automatically warrant the first contact with a traditional law enforcement officer.

Union members agreed to forego base wage increases for fiscal year 2022-23, a departure from the steady incremental raises they have received every year since the original contract first went into effect in July 2018.

Future potential increases for fiscal years 2023-24 and 2024-25 are dependent on changes in ridership as compared to pre-pandemic figures, which will be measured on July 1 and Jan. 1 of each of these two years based on the prior quarter’s average weekday ridership.

Once 60 percent of pre-COVID-19 BART riders have returned, wage increases will start at 0.4 percent, scaling up alongside the number of passengers. Should ridership hit 100 percent of pre-pandemic numbers, the maximum increase in FY24 and FY25 would be 2 percent and 2.5 percent, respectively.

According to the staff report, this translates to an estimated $415,000 cost to the agency in FY24 and $668,000 in FY25, based on current staffing and ridership forecasts.

Other stipulations provide that, should a reduction-in-force be deemed necessary, it shall begin in inverse seniority; the addition of fare inspection officers, crisis intervention specialists and transit ambassadors to the list of staff who receive an annual uniform allowance of $1,050; and a standardized one-year probationary period for any new or rehired employee, effective after completion of training.

cgraf@sfexaminer.com

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