But in the wake of Mr. Hill’s death, the BART police department is once again facing disapproval, similar to what it endured after Johannes Mehserle shot Oscar Grant III in the back at the Fruitvale station in Oakland in 2009. That case touched off riots and looting last year after Mr. Mehserle was convicted of involuntary manslaughter. Mr. Mehserle was released from jail last month after serving 11 months of a two-year sentence.
BART has not released the names of the two officers who confronted Mr. Hill. But one of the officers was not carrying a Taser, officials said. Neither officer (one is a six-year veteran, the other has been on the force for 18 months) had received crisis-intervention training.
Asked if the officers were adequately prepared for the confrontation, Chief Rainey said, “Absolutely.” But critics said Mr. Hill’s death was a direct result of the agency’s slowness in making changes after the 2009 shooting.
“There’s been a two-year struggle to reform BART,” said Anne Weills, an Oakland lawyer who represents victims of police brutality. “They’ve made no effort to open themselves up to the public, to hire and screen people or to train people to adequately deal with these situations.”
BART officers have shot and killed six people since the agency was founded in 1972; three of the shootings occurred during the past three years. The police force for Atlanta’s transit system, which employs 321 officers, has had two in the last three years; the New York Police Department’s transit bureau, with 2,400 officers, has not had a fatal officer-involved shooting in at least 10 years.
– From “In San Francisco, Latest BART Shooting Prompts New Discussion of Reforms,” by Zusha Elinson and Shoshana Walter
By Guest Contributor Eric Arnold, cross-posted from Colorlines
I am hip-hop!—KRS-One
I am Oscar Grant!—anonymous graffiti
As the Oscar Grant saga has played out over the past 22 months, the Bay Area hip-hop community—a multi-ethnic, multi-generational coalition of musicians, visual artists, activists, students and ‘hood kids—has stood at the forefront of the movement to hold police accountable for his death. Within a day of the New Year’s morning 2009 shooting, Oakland rapper Mistah F.A.B. and singer Jennifer Johns recorded a tribute song, which addressed not only the shooting, but the larger issue of violent deaths of young black men at the hands of police.
Over the past months, F.A.B. and Johns’ initial response has grown in the hip-hop world to encompass rallies, benefit concerts, panel discussions and lectures, spoken word ciphers, blog and vlog posts, even bike rides in honor of Grant’s memory. When former transit cop Johannes Mehserle’s trial was moved from Alameda County to Los Angeles, youth activists and organizers in L.A. picketed daily in front of the courthouse. It’s not a stretch to say that Grant has become the Lil’ Bobby Hutton of his generation—a young black man, killed by a police bullet, who has become representative of a larger struggle for self-determination.