BART police chief's leadership questioned

February 2, 2009 7:13:52 PM PST
Harsh criticism came up on Monday against BART's chief of police, by one of his own. The head of the Police Officers Association is speaking publicly about what he calls a lack of leadership at the top. It is a charge that came over the handling of the shooting of Oscar Grant by Officer Johannes Mesherle who remains in jail.

"We're not murders. We're not killers. We're not executioners," said Jesse Sekhon, the BART Police Officer's Association president.

It's the first time since the New Year's Day shooting of Oscar Grant, that the BART Police Officers Association has given a television interview. And President Jesse Sekhon isn't holding back about BART Chief Gary Gee.

"There was no protocol in place. It's a little bit embarrassing," said Sekhon.

Sekhon says the chief failed to offer counseling to officers for more than two weeks after the shooting. He also says officers received inadequate Taser training -- just six hours in all.

Johannes Mesherle's lawyer has said the former BART officer thought he was firing his Taser, but a judge was skeptical, saying Mesherle told fellow Officer Tony Pirone he thought Grant had a gun.

Attorney Bill Rapoport is representing Pirone. Amateur videos him striking Grant minutes before the shooting. Grant's family has called for criminal charges to be filed against him.

"I don't think my client did anything criminal and I think once the district attorney's office has viewed or analyzes the video, they will agree with me," said Rapoport.

Rapoport says Pirone used his forearm to control Grant and denies reports that he punched Grant in the face. Grant, he says, provoked the blow by kneeing the officer in the groin.

"Oscar Grant will not cooperate. Will not sit down and ends up pushing Officer Pirone at which point Officer Pirone then tries to control Grant," said Rapoport.

BARTofficials are defending the agency's handling of the investigation.

"I think true leadership is not blaming yourself its scrutinizing yourself and the BART Board of Directors and the chief of police have committed to doing that. They're setting up a third party to look at the BART Police Department from top to bottom and that's the true definition of leadership," said Linton Johnson, BART chief spokesman.

Sekhon defended Mesherle's refusal to talk with investigators before quitting the force.

"Officer Mesherle used and invoked his constitutional rights that every person has and I did not see a problem in that. It's frustrating. I'm frustrated, however he made the decision that he made. I can't change that," said Sekhon.