BART cops told to turn in their Tasers

April 16, 2010 7:18:46 PM PDT
The BART Board of Directors met Friday to interview candidates to take over the troubled police department, where a sudden decision to strip officers of their Tasers is sparking some heat.

BART police officers attended the Friday morning meeting with their usual service weapons, but the Tasers were noticeably absent. The Tasers were turned in beginning Thursday and will not be reissued until all offers go through several hours of additional training.

The sudden removal of the Tasers comes after a federal court ruling that narrows the circumstances when officers can use a stun gun, usually only to defend themselves, and a recent incident at the Richmond BART station in which a BART police officer fired his Taser at a 13-year-old boy who was allegedly fleeing the scene of a fight on a bicycle.

There is a feeling among some of the BART directors that they were left out of the loop about the Richmond incident and the decision to pull the Tasers.

"Well, my concern is that we're just not being communicated with properly; something like this could have really escalated and got out of hand and after the Oscar Grant tragedy we didn't need this to happen again," BART director Lynette Sweet said. "So communication is key, that's all we're looking for is communication. But I do applaud Chief Butler for making the decision that he did, taking those Tasers away at this point."

"They're the directors; if they have a concern about that and they don't think the timing was good for them, then that's their opinion and they are the elected body so we'll have to address that," BART chief spokesperson Linton Johnson said.

BART police officers are expected to be without their Tasers for the next two to three weeks until the training gets underway. They will also have to obey a new policy, whereby officers must wear their handguns closest to their stronger arm and their Tasers on their weaker side to prevent confusion between the two weapons.

That type of confusion may have contributed to the death of Oscar Grant, the unarmed BART passenger that was killed by former BART police officer Johannes Mehserle on New Year's 2009.

Four candidates for the police chief position were being interviewed at Friday's meeting. A selection is expected to be made by the end of the month.


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