BART is in the midst of selecting a new chief for its police force, and members of the transit agency’s board of directors are making their pitch to be heavily involved in the selection process.
BART’s embattled police chief, Gary Gee, resigned in August, following heavy criticism for his handling of the New Year’s Day shooting of Oscar Grant III, an unarmed passenger who was killed by former BART Officer Johannes Mehserle on the platform of the Fruitvale station.
The 206-person police force has been led by Cmdr. Maria White in the interim, but BART is aiming to find a permanent replacement for Gee by early next year, ideally in April, spokeswoman Luna Salaver said.
BART board member Lynette Sweet, who also sits on the agency’s Police Review Committee, which was formed in the wake of Grant’s death, said it’s imperative that she and fellow members are involved in the process, particularly since the police force is once again dealing with use-of-force issues. On Nov. 21, a BART police officer was caught on video slamming an unruly passenger into a platform window, shattering the glass.
While BART general manager Dorothy Dugger ultimately has the final say in the police chief hire, Sweet said that board members should be able to vet the choices before any decision is made.
“I think there should be more people involved — the more eyes the better,” Sweet said. “The current system of our police department is broken, and our staff needs all the help they can get to fix it.”
Salaver said that Dugger plans to consult the BART board, but member Tom Radulovich countered that the general manager has been “kicking and screaming against a search model that is more inclusive.”
“This process has continued the tension that’s been going on all year here,” Radulovich said. “It’s the agency’s control-freak tendency against the public’s right to know.”
Both Sweet and Radulovich said they’d like a new chief who is experienced with the Bay Area’s diverse culture and is comfortable in both urban and suburban settings. Radulovich said he’d prefer a chief who is a strong advocate for the police officers, a trait that was missing during Gee’s tenure, when, according to an independent report, BART’s police facilities fell into their current dilapidated state.
“We need to find the right person, and I don’t think you can rush this,” Radulovich said. “But right now, our police department is in shambles.”
Patrolling for candidates
Police chief search timeline*:
Present–Dec. 11: Develop recruitment profile
Dec. 3: Survey tool posted online so public can weigh in
Dec. 8–Feb. 1: Open recruitment for new chief
Feb. 1–26: Review résumés, conduct screening interviews
Week of March 15: Background check of finalists
Week of March 29: Final selection of chief
April 26: Police chief starts
*Proposed — still subject to change.