BART policing has been a difficult conversation since I moved to the Bay Area. The mistreatment of the African-American community has been disingenuous at the very least, and their disassociation with the public, for which they serve, only furthers more distrust. Apart from the BART Board and system, BART Police need to cultivate a trusting relationship with the public.
I believe that this disassociation stems from police not recognizing riders and citizens as individuals and persons. There is also an exclusivity mentality that occurs as a group gets more close-knit and forgets how to measure their actions by external eyes. The “us vs. them” mentality needs to be wiped clean. To work on this I would propose some policies of community involvement:
- Encourage policing staff to casually interact and socialize with other BART riders as they travel on BART between stations. I believe this helps officers not just calm nerves when they’re on regular patrols, but reminds them that each person has a story and a life. (Maybe make a competition out of it, warning the public of course so as not to freak us out)
- This idea is based on contracted security personnel that work for Sacramento Regional Transit. They and SacRT fare inspectors commonly socialize with passengers at stations or while traveling and it makes riders more relaxed.
- This interaction also gives passengers the awareness that officers are always around. Officers are much more impressionable and visible if you’ve heard their voice or seen them talking.
- Require on-duty officers to wear body cameras. This is a growing trend in the nation as we’re beginning to uncover the injustice that on-duty officers can commit. I hate that this is seen as a punishment by officers and their unions for lack of trust but should be seen as an part of their duty as public officials.
- Require BART officers to spend a percent of their work time on community involvement, both in and out of uniform. I would like to see this focused on disadvantaged ethnic minority groups, groups serving persons with disability, and homeless shelters as those are the groups most highlighted in media with misconduct.
- Police ride-alongs have been common around the US. I don’t know if BART currently allows them or encourages them but I would like to encourage student and minority groups to ride along with BART officers and/or work with them in the office.
I do not want BART officers to let their guard down. An officer’s first priority must be to protect themselves and others. But BART police should never believe that they have the authority to anything beyond what is necessary to subdue a suspect or taze non-violent/incapacitated offenders. To do anything else is detrimental to the safety of passengers and a liability to BART. Even these measures may not stop an individual officer from overreacting and committing misconduct, but they are worth a try.