BART’s board of directors voted unanimously today to spend up to $141,000 on the purchase of 130 more Tasers to allow all of its police officers to have their own electroshock weapons.
The BART Police Department currently has 60 Tasers, and many officers aren’t equipped with the devices.
BART staff members said in a report to the board that giving each officer a Taser would increase the officers’ comfort level with the weapons.
The issue of officers’ training and familiarity with Tasers was raised by lawyers for former BART police Officer Johannes Mehserle, who was convicted of involuntary manslaughter last year for fatally shooting unarmed passenger Oscar Grant III at the Fruitvale station in Oakland on Jan. 1, 2009.
Mehserle admitted that he shot and killed Grant after responding to a report of a fight on a train but claimed that he had meant to use his Taser.
Mehserle’s lawyers said Mehserle hadn’t been properly trained to use a Taser. They said that since Mehserle didn’t have his own Taser–the one he was carrying was borrowed–he wasn’t very familiar the stun guns.
BART staff members stated in their report that Tasers “are an important less-lethal-force option that officers can use when lethal force is not required.”
BART spokesman Linton Johnson said the transit agency will get the new Tasers before the current fiscal year ends on June 30.
Johnson said BART previously had a voluntary policy under which officers could choose whether to carry Tasers, but now all officers will be required to carry Tasers once they get proper training on the devices.
He said there are 206 sworn officer positions in the BART Police Department but that normally there are five to 10 positions that aren’t filled.
BART staff members say each Taser costs $815 plus an additional $185 for a four-year extended warranty. Shipping and handling for 130 Tasers costs $400.
Jeff Shuttleworth, Bay City News