BART takes Tasers away from its police force

Transit agency says officers will be retrained on stun gun use

The BART Police Department is prohibiting its officers from using Tasers over the next couple of weeks while the officers are retrained on the department's new policy regarding the stun guns, BART Acting Police Chief Daschel Butler said Thursday night.

BART police officers were issued a memo Thursday, letting them know of the decision, which will take effect Friday.

BART chief spokesman Linton Johnson said two recent federal court rulings, which say Tasers can only be used for defense, prompted the BART Police Department to modify its Taser policy.

Butler said the department had already been in the process of updating its Taser policy, and that the new policy incorporates the courts' decisions as well as the best practices of other agencies and findings of a report conducted by the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives. The comprehensive report by NOBLE was conducted following the New Year's Day 2009 killing of BART passenger Oscar Grant III at the hands of former BART police Officer Johannes Mehserle.

Johnson said a recent non-injury incident in which a BART police officer used a Taser "was a factor in accelerating our decision to suspend Taser use until we got our policy conformed with the court," but added that the decision would have been made regardless.

The use of Tasers by BART police officers has been controversial since Grant was killed at the Fruitvale station in Oakland.

Mehserle's lawyer, Michael Rains, has admitted Mehserle shot and killed Grant but claims that the shooting was accidental because Mehserle meant to use his Taser on Grant but fired his gun by mistake.

BART officers were required to turn in their Tasers to their sergeants Thursday and the suspension of the stun guns will go into effect Friday, according to a bulletin issued by Butler.

Over the next couple weeks, officers will be trained during their regular shifts and will be provided with the updated policy along with video training.

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