April 2010

BART asks customers what they want in new police chief

by METRO Staff

Courtesy BART

In its quest to find a new police chief, Oakland, Calif.'s Bay Area Rapid Transit District (BART) asked the public what they thought were the most important issues to be addressed by the new chief via an online survey.

Respondents were asked to rate 14 personal characteristics or attributes desired in a new chief, with the top two rated being "leadership" and "ethics and transparency." The questionnaire also provided opportunities to weigh in on departmental priorities, such as key tasks and areas of focus, and solicited open-ended comments to allow respondents to voice their opinion.

The survey found that increasing police presence on trains, in stations and parking lots should be the top priority for a new police chief.

"Before we begin change at the very top, we wanted to find out what our customers want and what the public at large in the Bay Area wants in a police chief," said Jim Allison, a BART spokesman.

The survey is part of BART's nationwide search for a new police chief after its previous chief, Gary Gee, retired on Dec. 30, 2009. Daschle Butler, a retired Berkeley, Calif. officer, is currently serving as interim chief. The agency has also hired a third-party search firm to help find the best possible candidate.

The survey took on a particular importance in light of the well-publicized shooting of Oscar Grant by a BART police officer on New Year's Day 2009, which resulted in a financial settlement of $1.5 million to his daughter, Allison explained.

"Obviously, there are things that we need to improve upon, and we are working to do that with our police department," said Allison.

The questionnaire was administered through an email invitation sent to about 1,500 randomly selected BART riders who had completed an on-board passenger environment survey and agreed to participate in future BART research. It was also posted on BART's Website.

To notify its customers of the open-participation survey, BART ran a notice on the electronic destination signs in stations, sent messages to Twitter followers and Facebook fans, emailed individuals who had attended previous public meetings on citizen oversight, notified city officials and numerous community organizations, issued a press release urging public input and made announcements at public meetings where selection of the new police chief was discussed.

The results confirmed that many of the same qualities the third-party firm is looking for in a new chief are the same qualities the community finds important. The search firm met with BART management in February to present recommendations of candidates who should move forward in the process, explained Allison.

"There will be a peer review process that will narrow the pool, followed by a community process and Board input before the ultimate selection decision by the general manager," he said. "The process is currently on target for a selection decision early in March."

 


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