Mixed responses to proposed BART 'ambassador' program to increase safety on trains

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- When it comes to protecting people on BART, the transit agency is considering adding not more police, but unarmed ambassadors.

When we first brought this subject up we got a lot of response from viewers who were very opinionated-- those who want more BART officers to improve safety and those who love the idea of what they say are less intimidating ambassadors.

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The BART board president confirmed Tuesday they are actively drafting a proposal to launch a pilot program for so-called ambassadors. The program would potentially train new hires who may have formerly dealt with homelessness or addiction and having them monitor trains as a supplement to BART police to improve safety.

ABC7 News viewer Isaiah wrote, "An ambassador cannot detain a suspect who stabs passengers. Put public safety first!"

Caryl wrote, "I would not want ambassadors if they were ex-cons-- it's getting scarier for me as a commuter."

BART Director Debora Allen said, "I oppose the ambassador program at this time. My fellow directors have great big hearts and they love humanity-- but it is not the right idea for BART right now. I want professionally trained police personnel."

Another BART Director, John McPartland, says its complex.

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"If they find themselves in harm's way-- have they been trained and will they be able to extricate themselves from dangerous situations? If not does that put the public at more risk?"

The BART Board President believes the ambassador program could be a win-win.
ABC7 news viewer Kendall wrote, "With a fixed budget you can hire more ambassadors and it can free up police officers to do rapid response to actual incidents."

A majority of Bart directors seem to lean toward trying out a pilot program for ambassadors.

We were told that pilot program would definitely include the Powell Street Station and one or two others.

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Those who oppose it are pushing to hire more officers.

We're going to keep following this topic and BART says they welcome public feedback.

In a statment to ABC7 News, the Bart Police Officers Association is opposed to the ambassador program. You can read their full statment below.

"The BPOA is opposed to the ambassador program proposed by the board of directors. It would violate our contract. These are duties officers have historically performed. The district's plan would take away sworn officer positions in order to fund ambassador positions and we think that would sacrifice the safety of our patrons."

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