OAKLAND — Not having its own academy, BART utilizes five Bay Area law enforcement training centers for police officers it hires, all of which offer hundreds of hours more in classes than the minimum state standard.
Two of the centers, including the one attended by former BART Officer Johannes Mehserle, who has been charged with murder in the fatal shooting of Oscar Grant III on New Year's Day, offer the fewest hours of training but still are well above the state minimum.
Mehserle, who resigned a few days after the shooting and has refused to give a statement to investigators from three different agencies looking into the case, graduated two years ago from the Napa Valley College Criminal Justice Training Center, which is in the same area where he grew up.
The California Commission on Peace Officers Standards and Training requires a minimum of 664 hours of training for someone to become a police officer in the state. That includes a minimum of 72 hours of firearms training.
The Napa center offers 880 hours of classes spread over 22 weeks and includes 80.5 hours of firearms training. It does not offer Taser training.
Like the other academies utilized by BART, the Napa Valley center offers a variety of law enforcement classes. Among them are search and seizure, criminal law, investigations, penal and vehicle code, defensive tactics, emergency vehicle operation, use of force and weaponry.
It also conducts mock "critical incidents" like felony car stops and crimes in progress. It has follow-up discussions on such incidents and their "effect on the (student), the department and the community," said Damien Sandoval, center director.
Sandoval did not specifically remember Mehserle but said, "We tell (students) they will receive the broadest range of training we can provide, but there is no way we can predict (all) situations they might be involved in. We try and give them what we believe are the best tools.
"You just can't possibly predict the types of events or the individuals' interpretation or response to those events," he said.
Sandoval, who retired from the Walnut Creek Police Department after 28 years, said the BART shooting will be a training discussion.
"It will become a topic. We are still gathering information, especially the impact on the community," he said. "This is going to be a very trying time for the community of Oakland and law enforcement, but especially for that community."
Mehserle attended the academy at his own expense, then applied and was offered a job by BART.
BART spokesman Linton Johnson said once they officially join the 206-officer department, BART rookie officers get a three-week departmental course that covers specific BART policies and procedures. They are then in a field training program with a veteran officer for 20 weeks.
All new hires are on probation for 12 months, which is standard for most police departments, during which time they can be fired without cause for not meeting probationary standards.
BART also conducts ongoing periodic training, Johnson said. That includes lineup training where a sergeant gives short refresher training during roll call and briefing. Training updates are distributed departmentwide on an as-needed basis.
They also receive Peace Officers Standards and Training telecourse training, during which each month they view two-hour DVDs produced by POST. All officers must watch them and sign a roster, Johnson said. Several topics are covered, including case law updates and trend issues.
They also get continued professional in-service training of between 24 and 40 hours. BART tries to do that every two years, but budget and overtime costs are taken into consideration when planning such classes, Johnson said. Those are basically intensified update and refresher sessions on different subjects.
BART officers receive six hours of Taser training and have to qualify with their firearms twice a year, Johnson said.
Other academies BART has used over the years are the Oakland Police Department academy, those run by the Alameda County and Contra Costa County sheriff's offices, and the South Bay Regional Public Safety Training Consortium in Santa Clara County, Johnson said.
As at the Napa center, people who want a career in law enforcement pay their own way at the South Bay center and then apply at departments that have openings.
A potential BART officer who has not attended either of the private academies is sent by BART to the Oakland or two sheriff's academies based on openings.
Oakland has not trained a BART officer in more than two years, mainly because of the city's own intensified recruiting and training to get the department to more than 800 officers.
The Oakland academy is 26 weeks long and offers 1,048 hours of training, including 120 hours of firearms training. The academy plans to offer Taser training to future classes. Currently, Taser training for Oakland officers is given in-house after officers have graduated from the academy.
The Alameda County sheriff's academy is 27 weeks long and offers 1,056 hours of training. Of that, 134 hours are dedicated to firearms and chemical agents, Sgt. J.D. Nelson said. Arrest and control is an additional 80 hours, and use of force is another 21. There is no Taser training.
The Contra Costa County Sheriff's Office Law Enforcement Training Center in Pittsburg offers 1,020 hours of instruction over 26 weeks, including 120 hours of firearms instruction. The last time any BART recruits attended that academy was in 2007, when four graduated.
The South Bay Training Center has 880 hours over 22 weeks and includes 83 hours of firearms classes. It does not teach Taser use.