Oakland looks to BART to help pay for police overtime

November 11, 2010 7:35:08 PM PST
Oakland City Council President Jane Brunner wants BART to help Oakland pay its police overtime bill for a series of demonstrations related to the shooting of unarmed Oscar Grant on a BART platform New Year's Day 2009.

"But for a BART police officer shooting Oscar Grant, we would not have any of these demonstrations," said Brunner. "It's absolutely traceable to the actions of a BART police officer, so they should take responsibility."

Oakland City Administrator Dan Lindheim estimates the overtime costs of three demonstrations related to the shooting and trial of former BART Officer Johannes Mehserle at between $1 and $2 million. That includes last Friday night's demonstrations after Mehserle's sentencing that resulted in the arrest of 152 demonstrators by police in riot gear.

There has been no formal request for BART to pay, but several Oakland City Council members think there should be.

"This council's been pretty consistent, including me, that we feel that BART should pay for part of that," says Oakland Mayor-elect Jean Quan.

"BART has extra money. BART was thinking about returning money to riders," says Brunner.

But BART spokesman Linton Johnson told ABC7 any protest costs Oakland incurred should fall under the heading of mutual aid, where agencies provide support to one another in times of need.

Former San Francisco Police Chief Tony Ribera agrees.

"You could use the same argument that the Federal Government would be responsible for anti-war demonstrations. You know, you're responsible for security in your community," says Ribera.

BART Director Lynette Sweet told ABC7 she thinks the transit district should pay at least some of Oakland's tab.

"This is our responsibility and we need to own up to it," Sweet told ABC7. "Our officer killed our passenger. Oakland had nothing to do with it. We may not have caused the damage, but we were certainly the catalyst for it."

Facing a $31 million deficit, Oakland laid of 80 police officers in June. Brunner says if the city could recoup even $1 million from BART, it would be enough to rehire six of those officers for a year.

BART's full statement said: "The purpose of mutual aid is so public agencies will share their people and equipment in times of need. BART PD, Oakland PD and other agencies have benefited from a lifelong relationship in support of each other and will continue to do so. From paying the enormous costs of running trains 24/7 to get Oakland residents and others across the Bay when the bridge collapsed during the Loma Prieta earthquake, to the daily calls for BART PD's bomb sniffing dogs or our extra officers to help with war protests, sporting events and street festivals, BART, like our sister agencies, always pitches in without expectation of reimbursement."


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