Taser usage has been an ongoing debate from Mehserle’s trial to the 35-year-old man tased last month for resisting arrest after fare eviction. According to BART Police Chief Kenton Rainey’s recently published Op-Ed, tasers are a valid method to deal with BART-related crimes, and not something that plan on giving up.
“If we are going to maintain a safe, secure and customer-service friendly transit system, it’s important for BART police to enforce minor quality of life crimes like fare evasion.” Rainey said.
Regarding the incident with 35-year-old Jason Johnson, who was tased and arrested for allegedly not paying his BART fare, Rainey said “It’s not normal for a 35-year-old man to engage in fare evasion* or for him to aggressively and physically resist a uniformed officer who is engaged in the lawful performance of his duty.”
Rainey stands by the officer’s use of a taser, saying that Johnson’s misbehavior isn’t a first. “Often, we find that individuals who engage in this type of behavior are no strangers to law enforcement. That’s why it was no surprise to learn that the suspect’s criminal history includes arrests and/or contacts for battery on a police officer, auto theft, domestic violence, reckless driving, giving false identification to an officer, trespassing and fare evasion.”
But some say that BART police may be attacking far more than the suspect’s committed crime at hand. Johnson’s past as a registered sex offender with a long criminal record was openly revealed to the public while BART made no mention of even the name of the officer who was involved in the incident.
Rainey said that the BART Police Department has a system to review whether the actions of an officer are consistent with operating procedures. “if we have done something wrong, we will admit it,” he said.
While Johnson’s case is still in review, Rainey says he welcomes the public’s opinion on the issue. “In a free society the police are entrusted with awesome power that must be open to scrutiny, criticism and citizen oversight if we are going to maintain the public trust. Therefore, not only should we expect this debate to occur, we should welcome it.”
*Wow, Chief Rainey would REALLY have a rough time on Muni then, where fare evasion knows no age limits — EB