BART’s new independent police auditor said today that he will conduct a thorough investigation into a recent confrontation at a San Francisco station in which BART police shot and killed a knife-wielding man. Mark T. Smith said his investigation will parallel those also being conducted by the BART and San Francisco police departments and will look at whether officers used the proper tactics and were justified in using force in fatally shooting 45-year-old Charles Hill at the Civic Center station at about 9:45 p.m. on July 3. BART officials said Hill was armed with a knife and a broken bottle that he was wielding as a weapon, was aggressive and combative with officers who attempted to contact him, and did not comply with orders.
The officer-involved shooting occurred after Smith, who previously served in police review positions in Los Angeles and Chicago, had been at BART for only a week. BART Director Lynette Sweet, who chairs BART’s police review committee, said, “Talk about trial by fire.” The independent police auditor’s job is a new position that was created in the wake of criticism about the way the transit agency investigated the fatal shooting of passenger Oscar Grant III at the hands of BART police Officer Johannes Mehserle at the Fruitvale station in Oakland on Jan. 1, 2009. Sweet said BART created the police auditor’s job and formed an 11-member citizen review board to assure the public that investigations into police actions are conducted with “transparency, integrity and honesty.”
Sweet said each entity reports directly to the BART Board of Directors, not to each other. She said the auditor reports his findings to the citizen’s review board and then to the Board of Directors. The citizen review board can either agree or disagree with the auditor’s report and make its own decision whether to accept its recommendations and report its decision to the Board of Directors. Referring to the fatal shooting of Hill, Sweet said, “I’m disappointed we’re here today.” But Sweet said “the people are not in bad hands” because she is confident that Smith will conduct a fair investigation that is completely separate from the probes being performed by BART and San Francisco police.
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