Train patrol: BART plans increased police presence

It hasn't even been a year since the tragic shooting of Oscar Grant, and BART police are already playing defense over another YouTube video showing a bloody scuffle between a BART officer and a passenger on Nov. 21. In light of so much controversy, it seems unexpected that most riders want to see more cops on board the BART trains.

According to a recent survey by the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives (NOBLE), regular BART riders made it clear that a police presence on trains was their top priority. In the report, a NOBLE rep wrote that "the desire to have officers riding BART trains was a constant theme among ... the riding public."

"There need to be more cops, if not on the trains, at least patrolling the stations," Felicia McAroy, who rides BART daily from the West Oakland station to downtown Oakland, told SF Weekly. "I ride every day, and see them maybe once a week."

Passengers aren't the only ones griping: "Station agents in particular advised they felt police should get out of their cars and actually come inside the station," the NOBLE survey noted.

These are not new complaints. Nearly 15 years ago, an independent peer review by the American Public Transportation Association pointed out that cops are not visible enough on BART trains. They are supposed to conduct two inspections every shift, in addition to patrolling inside stations and parking lots. But it seems not even BART management knows whether cops are actually spending the minimum amount of time on board.

When SF Weekly inquired how much time BART cops spend on trains versus inside their patrol cars, a spokeswoman for the agency told us that "this information is not adequately captured." But there is good news. Linton Johnson, BART's chief spokesman, says the agency is working on a plan to increase police visibility on trains and inside the stations. During peak hours, BART police will focus their patrols inside stations, particularly in busy areas like entry gates. In addition, lieutenants, sergeants, and officers will ride a minimum of two trains during their shifts. And to improve accountability, BART cops will be required to log how much time they spend on trains versus in stations and parking lots.

Eventually, the agency wants a team of police dedicated to patrolling BART trains. Until then, the only way to know whether BART cops are on the trains (and not in their cars) is when they wind up on YouTube.

Will Harper contributed to this story.

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