A citizens’ watchdog committee tasked with overseeing California's Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) Police Department on Monday recommended new standards for officers, requiring them to use only the minimal amount of force necessary to make an arrest or bring a suspect into custody.
BART police officers balked at the recommendation, which passed on a 6-4 vote, with some saying they would leave the department if it is implemented. The recommendation is not binding; instead, it serves to advise the department, said acting BART police Chief Jeff Jennings.
BART formed its Police Citizen Review Board in the wake of the Oscar Grant shooting to monitor the implementation of department policies, review complaints against officers and advise both the agency’s top officials and its governing board on new policies. Jennings, who opposes the proposal, said he would take the change under consideration before making a final decision. If the recommendations are not implemented, the policy may go to BART’s Board of Directors, which could make the changes mandatory, vote on a new policy or disregard it entirely.
At the heart of the debate, which has been ongoing since November, are two words: “reasonable” and “minimal,” the Mercury News reports.
BART, like the vast majority of departments across the country, uses a standard of “reasonableness,” which essentially says officers must use only the amount of force necessary to bring a situation under control, as judged “from the perspective of a reasonable officer on scene at the time of the incident.”
The department should be striving for a higher standard, said review board member David Rizk, and that is what the committee approved. Under the new policy, officers must use a “minimal amount of force that is reasonably necessary” to make an arrest or bring a suspect into custody. That type of force is defined as “a least forceful option, employed only when no alternative lesser or non-force option reasonably exists under the totality of the circumstances…”