As the Bay Area awaits
the verdict of the Johannes Mehserle trial with bated breath and tensions
over the possibility of a post-trial riot in Oakland, everyone from office
workers standing by the water cooler to media moguls and politicians are discussing
the potential outcome of the case.
Included in this chatter is former San
Francisco Mayor Willie Brown, who is putting in his two cents (as he so often
does) via his
weekly column in the San Francisco Chronicle.
this week’s edition of “Willie’s World,” Brown predicts that Meheserle will
receive a sentence of involuntary manslaughter, then goes on to question the
necessity of BART officers carrying guns in the first place, since they are not
“real police officers out on patrol.”
“They are transit cops. They aren’t going
to be in a shootout with anybody. Not on a BART platform, or in a parking lot
or in a BART car. Too many people could get hurt if there was a real shootout,”
In an e-mail to the SF Appeal, BART’s Chief
Communications Officer Linton Johnson disputed Mayor Brown’s comments, arguing
that BART officers are no different from the SFPD’s boys in blue.
“BART Police are sworn police officers just
like any other police officer in the state of California. As such they are
trained to state standards and now after the trial we have enhanced that
training further,” Johnson said.
Johnson also added that the need for BART
officers to carry guns also comes from the fact that BART is on the top 10 list
of potential terrorist targets in California, as he cited that roughly 75% of
all acts of terrorism worldwide have occurred on public transportation.
“I hope the Mayor is correct–that our
officers are never in a situation where a suspect or a terrorist is firing at
them,” Johnson said. “But in the event that does happen, I hope our officers win–and
I’m guessing that couldn’t happen without a weapon.”
Spokesperson Johnson additionally provided
support from a third-party
report by NOBLE (the National Association of Black Law Enforcement
Executives) published earlier this year which concluded the need for BART
officers to be armed while on duty. The report followed up an earlier
assessment from September 2009, which lambasted
BART’s handling of the Oscar Grant shooting and criticized the transit
agency as a whole.
So does Willie Brown’s argument that BART
cops don’t need guns because they aren’t “real police officers” carry merit, or
is it just a necessary evil for BART officers to be equipped with weapons in
case of a potential serious threat?