BART Police have killed again. On Sunday July 3rd they gunned down Charles Hill, a man so drunk witnesses described him as unable to stand, and were worried he might fall on the tracks. 2 officers arrived on the platform, ostensibly called to help the man, and within 60 seconds they had shot him 3 times. BART police insist that the shooting was justified, and claim he attacked them with a knife and a broken bottle. There is surveillance video, which BART refuses to release, and considers inconclusive. The officers have been commended and offered the full support of BART Police Chief Kenton Rainey. But witnesses to the shooting claim Hill posed no threat to the officers, and dispute everything about the police account. If this sounds familiar, it’s because we had were faced with the exact same situation in the first days following the Oscar Grant shooting (until video was leaked).
What you probably don’t know is that Charles Hill and Oscar Grant are not the only people to die at the hands of the BART police. Jerrold Hall was shot in the back of the head with a shotgun as he walked away from an officer. Bruce Seward was naked and covered in mace when he was shot down on the street. Fred Collins was shot as he backed away from a group of armed officers in Fruitvale. Robert Greer died from a “fall” after being taken into BART police custody.
You might be willing to give BART cops the benefit of the doubt. Perhaps these are accidents. But consider this: when have the BART police EVER shot anyone who DID pose a threat? According to Kenton Rainey, there have been only 6 officer involved shootings in the 40 year history of BART. Now take a look at the previous paragraph, and you do the math. 6 shootings total.
BART argues that it needs its own police department to “serve us better”, but this track record shows that we’d be better off not having a BART police force at all. The nail in the coffin is that whenever these incidents happen, BART management immediately closes ranks and defends the behavior of their officers, no matter how egregious. It doesn’t even matter if the whole thing is on video. Do you remember BART Police Chief Gary Gee calling the Oscar Grant video “grainy and inconclusive” and insisting “all the officers acted professionally and according to protocol”? Now BART Police Chief Kenton Rainey is telling us the Hill video he won’t release is “only a partial view” and that he is “comfortable” with the actions of the officers and that he wants to get them back to work ASAP.
We are mobilizing today to demand the release of that video, and to call for these officers to be held accountable for what they have done. We are hopeful that the SFPD investigation will foil the BART police attempts to cover this up, and we want the public kept in the loop. But our primary demand is not based on this specific incident. It is a response to the whole disgraceful history of the BART police department. BART police must be disbanded so BART is focused on its mission: providing public transit.