BART report highlights potential racial disparities in enforcement

Francesca Ledesma/File

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BART conducted a quality-of-life enforcement demographic study that was released Feb. 21.

The report was requested by BART director Janice Li to analyze potential disparities in quality-of-life enforcement between racial demographics. Quality-of-life enforcements are designed to enhance customer and ridership experience, according to a BART staff presentation.

“The purpose of this presentation should be to provide a data-driven account for the way BART resources, particularly law enforcement, are deployed and the benefits to our ridership and system safety,” Li said in her request.

Quality-of-life indicators include cleanliness, safety and fare evasion, according to the BART presentation. Riders can receive quality-of-life citations for breaking the BART code of conduct, which includes eating, smoking, vagrancy and vandalizing BART property.

The data released included the percentages of those from various ethnic backgrounds who were charged by BART police for quality-of-life citations. In 2019, 46% of riders who were cited for lack of proof of payment identified as Black, according to the BART presentation.

Fifty percent of those who were cited for breaking the code of conduct in 2019 identify as Black, according to the presentation. Twenty-four percent of those cited identify as white.

In the report, 40% of BART Police Department sworn officers were white, nearly double the number of Black officers, according to the presentation. Twenty-three percent of their officers were Hispanic.

“As the Chief of the BART Police Department I have made it a priority that we continue to build a culture of progressive and equitable policing,” said BART Police Department chief Ed Alvarez in a press release. “We must examine these findings and better understand why they exist and how they relate to the homeless crisis that often leads to quality of life enforcements.”

BART Police Department is participating in the Local and Regional Government Alliance on Race and Equity, or GARE, training program, which guides officers to advance racial equity, according to the BART press release.

BART departments have signed on for a year of training with GARE. The training will focus on skill-building and making connections with impacted citizens.

Additional data will be released by April 1, 2023, in accordance with AB 953, the Racial and Identity Profiling Act. This report will include detailed data on other factors such as sexual orientation and English language fluency in addition to race, according to the BART presentation.

“We acknowledge the data suggests there are disparities identified by the data and it is concerning to people,” the BART presentation concluded. “The BART Police Department also recognizes there are many interconnected contributing factors that play some role in producing these disparities, many of which are unable to be influenced solely by our Department and are instead issues that must be addressed by society as a whole.”

Contact Marc Escobar and Dina Katgara at [email protected].