Firm to review future of BART police

March 20, 2009 6:48:17 PM PDT
BART is now looking for outside help in trying to determine if the transit agency should continue to run its own police force. This review comes after the New Year's Day shooting of Oscar Grant at Oakland's Fruitvale BART Station. SIGN-UP: Get breaking news sent to you

The company that BART chooses will be asked to review its police department from top to bottom.

"Our policies and procedures, to our hiring practices to communication, to make sure that what happened January first doesn't happen again," says BART spokesperson Linton Johnson.

BART has been the target of a public outcry over that New Year's Day shooting of Oscar Grant, an unarmed 22-year-old.

BART Police Officer Johannes Mehserle was charged with murder. In the review, the overriding question is whether BART needs its own police department?

Jim Chanin is a prominent criminal defense attorney who recently settled an excessive force case involving a BART officer. He believes BART should disband its department and its officers should be merged into a newly-created regional transit police agency.

"Another alternative would be to have the cities who the stations are in, get money to police the stations and trains and to provide mutual aid when they go into another city," says Chanin.

Officer Jesse Sekhon is president of the BART Police Officers Association. He says BART officers protect the safety of 350,000 riders every day, the population of a small city. The crimes range from theft to murder.

"In the past three years, we've been averaging close to over 80 incidents where we've recovered weapons," says Officer Sekhon.

Almost all the passengers ABC7 spoke with, said they wanted BART to keep its police.

"I think the citizens that utilize it should be protected," said one BART rider.

"Yeah, I think they should have it. For security reasons," said another.

"It's a questionable thing you know. Maybe they should have an independent department, you know," said another BART rider.

BART hopes to have all of the names of the companies interested in conducting the review by the end of the month. BART has already hired an Oakland law firm to investigate the Oscar Grant shooting.

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