Director calls for removal of BART officers' Tasers

June 25, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
A BART official is calling for change after another controversial use of a Taser by a BART police officer. This week the officer zapped a fare evader in the back near the downtown Berkeley station.

"There is something about Tasers and our police that just don't seem to be right," BART director Lynette Sweet said. She is fed up with what she calls the improper use of Tasers by BART police.

In April, an officer tasered a 13-year-old on a bicycle in Richmond.

"One of our BART police sergeants in pursuit, riding in his patrol car, sees the kid on the bike and he shoots out of his car window at the kid," Sweet said. "Fortunately, it missed."

Police officials took away the stun guns and conducted several months of training sessions. Officers got their Tasers back two weeks ago.

Then on Tuesday, BART police say an officer, whom they would not identify, tasered a fare evader at the downtown Berkeley station. They say he chased 35-year-old Jason Johnson up the stairwell while ordering him numerous times to stop. They ended up at Shattuck Avenue, where again BART police say, the officer shouted out warnings to Johnson.

"The officer tried to grab the subject numerous times," Cmdr. Dan Hartwig said. "The suspect balled his hands into a fist-type action, took a stance as though he was going to fight with the officer."

That's when the officer reportedly fired his Taser and made the arrest.

"This officer made a split-second decision," Hartwig said. "The investigation will show whether he followed the process and procedures."

Sweet believes the officers involved in the two recent incidents did violate department policy. "I get that they need to use them in certain instances, but those instances need to be imminent threats."

The BART policy states that officers cannot use Tasers unless they are in "imminent threat of bodily injury."

Sweet has introduced legislation to ban Tasers from the police force, and she hopes that legislation will come up shortly.


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