BART adopts policing reforms after report shows racial disparities

Photo of Downtown BART Station
Sunny Shen/File
A report conducted by the Center for Policing Equity studied the policing practices of BART from 2012 to 2017. The report’s findings included that there were two times more vehicle stops per capita of Black individuals than white individuals.

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BART police is adopting six recommendations after an outside study showed racial disparities in police stops and use of force.

The report, conducted by the Center for Policing Equity, analyzed BART policing practices from 2012 to 2017 and was released to the public Friday. According to the report, key findings include that Black individuals compromise 64% of those who BART police used force on despite making up 9% of those served.

“The identification of racial disparities does not necessarily indicate that police officers have engaged in inequitable practices nor does it mean that they are solely responsible for these disparities as conditions outside of a department’s control such as poverty and crime rates can be contributing factors,” said BART spokesperson Chris Filippi in an email.

Other findings in the report include that there were twice as many vehicle stops per capita of Black individuals than white individuals, and about half of riders who were stopped were Black. With the exception of Black people, all racial groups were subject to lower rates of force than white people.

BART police began implementing the report’s recommendations when it received a draft over the summer, according to Filippi. These reforms include improving data collection, requiring officers to write the reason for each of their stops, revising BART police’s firearm policy and finding causes of distrust between the community and officers.

As a part of improving data collection, BART police plans to collect and review all stop data by October 2021 in compliance with California’s Racial and Identity Profiling Act of 2015, according to Filippi.

Filippi also noted that BART police’s firearm policy has already been revised to comply with all state mandates and now requires a police report anytime an officer displays or points a firearm.

BART police is the “first transit agency police department in the entire country to undergo this review process,” Filippi added in the email.

According to a BART press release, the report will be presented to the BART Board of Directors at its meeting Thursday, and directors will hear an update on BART police’s new policing initiatives.

“The foundation of my vision for safety at BART is my personal commitment to progressive policing, a commitment that is shared by the men and women of my department,” BART police chief Ed Alvarez said in the press release. “I take the findings of this report seriously and look at them as an initial benchmark against which future progress can be measured.”

Contact Maya Akkaraju at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @maya_akkaraju.