BART director criticized for controversial comment about agency's police officers

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- BART director Debora Allen is getting a lot of flack for her response to a public comment about BART police officers at Thursday's Board of Directors meeting. Fellow board members are calling her comments racist.

The BART Board of Directors was holding a virtual meeting when Allen reacted to public comments critical of BART police, including one person accusing police of murder.

"I get that we can't silence the public," she said, "but, I think it's important we address some of these statements that are made that aren't true."

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Allen continued, "BART PD murders people? That's not true. The definition of murder is the unlawful premeditated killing of one human being by another. It's just simply a false statement. Statements made like this right now at a time of such turmoil and unrest really, I can only guess, are politically motivated."

Allen suggested the board take action to prevent "false statements" during public commentary.

Janice Li, another BART director, reacted, "We cannot just simply pick and choose what we want to hear. Any attempt to silence public comment is unconscionable to me."

BART Board president Lateefah Simon added "It is unconscionable and it is racist."

Simon texted ABC7 News that Allen apologized at the end of the meeting saying she wasn't racist. Simon wrote, "I pray that she unlearns her xenophobia." Now, people are calling on Twitter for the BART board to remove Allen. Allen declined to comment to ABC7 News.

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BART Director Bevan Dufty said, "this isn't the first instance (in which) Director Allen has really stoked racially inflammatory flames."

He said another controversy arose on the anniversary of the death of Oscar Grant, who was shot and killed by a BART police officer.

Grant was a black man who was shot and killed by a BART police officer in 2009.

The officer was convicted for involuntary manslaughter and acquitted of second-degree murder.

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The verdict disappointed the Alameda County District Attorney.

Dufty claims Allen made a Facebook post that elicited hateful remarks.

Dufty said public comments that challenge BART officials are important. "You want to be uncomfortable," he said. "You want to sit in that chair and listen to the public and think about the things that you do and say and the responsibility each of us has that have power to change our society and to bring an end to white supremacy and bring an end to racism."

John Burris, the civil rights attorney representing Steven Foster, the black man BART police handcuffed last fall for eating a sandwich at a station, also weighed in.

"It is clear from the data we have here that African Americans are treated differently in some respects as they ride BART," said Burris. "We need to look at data and see what we can do and improve the sense that BART is a non-discriminatory transit agency."

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