Beware the BART police

By Tim Redmond

The coverage on KTVU of the latest BART police shooting shows what TV news can do at its best. While the Chron was relying on official accounts and some witnesses, KTVU got two sets of cell-phone videos that show the horror of the shooting in black and white. Then there’s the painful press conference when a BART spokesman talks about the safety of the passengers and says it’s “regrettable” for someone to die.

But what’s been missing in most of this discussion is the fact that this is nothing new — the BART police have been involved in improper shootings at least twice previously — and in both cases, the officers were cleared of any wrongdoing.

The big problems is that BART has no civilian oversight for the police. There’s no BART Board committee that monitors the BART cops, no independent investigative agency, nowhere except the BART Police to file complaints against the BART police. It’s the only major police agency in the Bay Area that operates with zero effective civilian oversight.

Here are two alarming examples of past police abuse:

1992: A BART cop shoots and kills an unarmed man who is walking away.

2001: A BART cop shoots an unarmed naked man.

I asked BART Board member Tom Radulovich today if there’s any way this incident will finally lead to a movement for civilian oversight of the BART police. He said he favors that — but he’ll need more votes. Here’s the BART Board president and vice-president. You can reach president Blalock at (510) 490-7565 and vice-president Fang (who represents San Francisco) at 415-397-0220. Blalock’s phone keeps ringing and doesn’t seem to have voice mail, but I’ll keep trying. I left Fang a message. You can do that, too.

Lynette Sweet represents parts of San Francisco, too. I can’t find a phone number for her and the BART office won’t give it out, but here’s her email: