Friday, August 28, 2009

Swanson Denies Gutting BART Police Oversight Bill (Updated)

Fri, Aug 28, 2009 at 1:45 PM

Assemblyman Sandre Swanson of Alameda told the Express this afternoon that he did not weaken the BART police oversight plan, because it had already been watered down by the time BART officials brought it to him. "I didn't craft any language," Swanson said. The assemblyman said BART leadership decided to change the plan after meeting with a statewide police officers' group. But that raises questions as to whether some BART leaders decided to alter the plan in secret without vetting it publicly, and whether the weakened plan has the support of all of the board members. The BART oversight plan went through several public hearings, and was criticized for not being strong enough, before the board adopted it earlier this month. BART spokesman Linton Johnson said this afternoon that the entire board was informed of the changes to the plan at a meeting yesterday, but did not vote on it. And he was not sure if the board would.

This post has been updated to reflect BART spokesman Linton Johnson's comments:

Johnson said BART leadership felt it was important to get some version of the plan through the Legislature this year, and then attempt to get the original plan approved next year. Swanson said that when BART board members Carole Ward Allen and Lynette Sweet approached him last week, along with several Bay Area ministers and community representatives, they already knew that they couldn't get the bill passed before the end of the legislative session in mid September if it faced opposition from cops. He said BART leaders had already struck a deal with the Peace Officers Research Association of California in an effort to speed up the process. As reported earlier, the watered-down revised plan prohibits BART's elected board members from having any say in the discipline of police officers. Swanson said that after reading the Express' earlier blog post and a report by the Chronicle, he asked for a telephone conference call from BART leaders later this afternoon to discuss the situation further.

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