ONE WOULD think that BART would be doing everything within its power to restore public confidence in the transit system's police force in the aftermath of the fatal Oscar Grant shooting.
Grant was lying face down on a train platform at the Fruitvale BART station on Jan. 1 when then-BART officer Johannes Mehserle shot him in the back. The shooting, which a number of passengers captured on their cell phones, raised serious questions about the competence of BART officers.
During the recent preliminary trial, evidence emerged suggesting that the officers who responded to the platform had exaggerated the danger to justify their aggressive response.
Several witnesses told investigators and testified in court that the officers' overly physical behavior inflamed the crowd, making the situation more volatile.
Two of those officers, Marysol Domenici and Jon Woffinden, have been on administrative leave pending completion of a BART investigation.
Yet in a development that can only be described as mind-boggling, Police Chief Gary Gee selected these very same officers for new assignments as tactical instructors. In these new roles, their duties are to be training other officers in apprehending suspects, searching suspects for weapons and crowd control.
These, of course, are some of the very same procedures the officers were undertaking when Grant was killed.
Gee and BART command staff chose the officers from a list of 14 candidates. BART board member Lynette Sweet says the assignments send a terrible message to the public — that BART really doesn't care about the concerns of all of those people who showed up at the civilian review board meetings.
She is right.
The political tone-deafness of BART police officials is mind-boggling given what they know to be the volatility of this case and the public's mistrust of the agency's handling of it.
To be sure, the two officers have not been accused by BART investigators of having used excessive force. No investigation has found them to have violated any department procedures. But common sense certainly would dictate that these were very foolish assignments to make at this time.
BART says the assignments won't actually go into effect until after BART's own internal affairs investigation is complete.
Yet in our view, this just further demonstrates the urgent need for a strong civilian review board to help develop hiring and training policies for BART officers — and to oversee discipline of those officers.
BART police officials clearly should not be left to their own devices.