Meyers Nave, the private law firm hired by BART, released their report documenting the events of January 1, 2009. The report outlined the events that led up to the shooting of Oscar Grant and how officers deviated from BART policy manual protocol. Youth Radio spoke with John Burris, the Grant family's attorney, about the recent report.
What are your thoughts on the report provided by Meyers Nave regarding Oscar Grant’s shooting?
I have seen the report that was issued by Meyers Nave. The first thing that was set forth by this report, is that the existing BART policy manual—consisting of their policies and general orders and standard operating procedures-- was woefully outdated. Worse than all that, the policies they had in effect ... were not even followed by the officers. Officers themselves were out of control; they were undisciplined and there was no person that you consider to be an incident commander...It was essentially one officer who was trying to control 4 or 5 different people. He never called for assistance. They were saying there was a general lack of good training tactics, poor team work amongst the officers...Their taser policy was not consistently applied.
Equally significant, a number of young people ... were detained for 5 hours when they weren’t under arrest...I think that if you look at this [the Meyers Naves report], this is sort of like a road map for the future. The current police chief has resigned and now there is going to be another chief. That new police chief will have an opportunity to review this report and implement some of the policies and procedures...It’s positive in the sense that it identifies the problems and then it provides a road map for the future for the next police chief.
How will this report help your case?
Well, certainly on the criminal side it has no effect...the criminal case is about Officer Mehserle and what he did...This report itself doesn’t go to that and it will not be admissible. In the civil case, where we have sued on behalf of his family, parts of it will be admissible—we will have to do some more legal work around it, but at least it lets us know what the problems are and we can use it ourselves as ... a road map.
Are you surprised with what the investigation revealed?
It certainly highlighted areas that I talked about.... Obviously, you have to prove it in court. Fundamentally, if the department had an appropriate supervisor on scene who was in control of this issue and giving proper direction and de-escalating the situation, Oscar Grant would not be dead.
On a scale from 1 to 10, how important is this report?
I think for the long direction of the department and in terms of modernizing the department, it is a 10. For our case, it's less of a value, but in terms of the future of BART... it’s very important.
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