The BART Police Department will start redistributing Tasers to its force this week, nearly two months after the use of stun guns was halted so that officers could be retrained and updated on new department policies.
“Beginning this week and hopefully completed by next Monday or Tuesday, we will redeploy Tasers to all police zones,” police Cmdr. Dan Hartwig said tonight, adding that officers will be able to choose whether or not to use them.
BART issued a memo in mid-April letting officers know of the temporary suspension of Taser use.
BART Acting Police Chief Daschel Butler said at the time the department had been in the process of updating its Taser policy, and that the new policy incorporates best practices of other agencies and findings of a report conducted by the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives. The comprehensive report by NOBLE was conducted following the New Year’s Day 2009 killing of BART passenger Oscar Grant III at the hands of former BART police Officer Johannes Mehserle.
BART also said two federal court rulings, which say Tasers can only be used for defense, prompted the BART Police Department to modify language in its Taser policy.
BART spokesman Linton Johnson said in April a non-injury incident in which a BART police officer used a Taser was a factor in accelerating the decision to suspend Taser use.
The use of Tasers by BART police officers has been controversial since Grant was killed at the Fruitvale station in Oakland.
Mehserle’s lawyer, Michael Rains, has admitted Mehserle shot and killed Grant but claims that the shooting was accidental because Mehserle meant to use his Taser on Grant but fired his gun by mistake.
Hartwig said officers who choose to use Tasers will now be required to wear the stun gun on their “weak” side, where as officers previously had three options of where to wear the Taser.