While being tossed through a plate-glass window is a staple of the action movie genre, it is less pleasant — or common — in reality. So when a BART police officer was caught over the weekend at West Oakland Station in a YouTube video titled “Officer Breaks Window With Drunks Face” it quickly became far bigger news than your standard detention of a noisy passenger — and don't think the questions swirling around the BART police in the wake of the January shooting of Oscar Grant wasn't a factor.
A pair of veteran San Francisco police officers viewing the video at SF Weekly's behest said they couldn't find anything egregiously wrong in the manner the unnamed BART officer detained Michael Gibson. But both noted that San Francisco Police policy on “wall searches” would ostensibly keep this situation from occurring in the city.
“Years ago, we did searches [of detained suspects] against walls or against cars,” said Kevin Martin, a 28-year police veteran and the vice president of San Francisco's police union. “We've gotten away from that so [suspects] don't have something to brace their body against and push back, affording them the opportunity to physically resist, attack, or escape.”
Sergeant Carl T, also a 28-year SFPD veteran, concurs. A suspect with his or her hands on the wall is in far better position to overpower an officer than a person with no leverage. “In the old days you'd see guys spread-eagled against the wall,” says T. “What we do now is tell them to interlock their fingers on top of their heads.”