BART police and staff undergo community training

February 9, 2011 10:41:54 PM PST
BART invited the media to see some of the profound changes underway in its police officer training. This comes in the wake of the shooting death of un-armed passenger Oscar Grant in 2009, by former BART officer Johannes Mehserle.

BART police of all ranks, department civilians, and employees from other departments attended Community Oriented Policing and Problem Solving (COPPS) training. It is part of a long list of changes that were recommended.

BART officers get some basic community policing training in the academy. This program goes further with a whole philosophy and strategy, not just about relationships, but also turning attention beyond the scope of traditional police work.

"Fundamentally, we're changing the way we're doing business from here on out," said BART Police Lt. Frank Lucarelli.

The idea behind it is that it is everyone's responsibility to make the system safer and it's not just about traditional police work, but quality of life issues as well.

"We took reports and now we have to start paying attention to some of these things that you guys wrote here that will help all of us make a safer transit system," said one of the trainers.

Also police will try to get at the root cause of chronic crimes, rather than just react to the symptoms. New BART Police Chief Kenton W. Rainey has been on the job for seven months. It's his job to oversee the changes recommended in an independent report after the Grant shooting. That report also suggested adding deputy chiefs over three departments: the Support Division, the Operations Division and the Professional Standards and Training Division.

"One of the recommendations coming out of the report is that we establish the rank of deputy chief and we just completed the testing process and selected three new deputy chiefs that we hope to have them on board by the beginning of March," said Rainey.

Rainey said the department is moving toward a cultural change along with reorganization, but he says it's a slow process -- there's a difference between writing policy and implementing it.

The attorney for Oscar Grant's family, John Burris, said BART is moving in the right direction. It is part of the Grant case's positive legacy.

"There's a lot more discussion about training officers on Tasers, making sure they choose the right weapon, if you will. That's a nationwide thing," said Burris.

BART is calling on riders to help out as well. While there are 350,000 daily riders, there are only between 50 and 60 officers over a 24-hour period and they're covering over 100 miles of track.