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BART takes away Tasers temporarily

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BART police officers will turn in their Tasers today following a court ruling Thursday that requires use of the weapon to change.

Linton Johnson, spokesman for BART, said officers will undergo training and get their stun guns back in two weeks.

Transit agency officials rolled out a new policy, Johnson said, that will now require officers to only use Tasers in acts of defense, which is a change from the current policy.

“While we’re waiting to train, we don’t want anyone to have a Taser,” he said. “It’s a temporary suspension until the new policy is in place.”

This is the third revision of the policy in 18 months, Johnson said.

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Johnson referred to two rulings — the 6th and 9th circuits of the U.S. Courts of Appeals — on an officer’s use of a Taser that affected the agency’s decision to collect the weapons immediately.

Johnson said under the current policy, officers can use Tasers to restrain someone or get them to comply with an order.

“It’s not necessarily if they feel threatened,” he said. “Now, it can only be used if their own lives, or another human being’s, are threatened.”

In addition to the change in use, officers will need to place the Taser on their weak sides, Johnson said. Guns will be placed on strong sides.

Recent incidents — including one this month that Johnson could not elaborate on — accelerated the agency’s decision to collect the Tasers and change policy, Johnson said. He said no one was hurt in that incident.

On New Year’s Day 2009, however, then-BART Officer Johannes Mehserle shot and killed passenger Oscar Grant III.

Mehserle’s lawyer Michael Rains has admitted Mehserle shot and killed Grant, but claims the shooting was accidental because Mehserle meant to use his Taser.

akoskey@sfexaminer.com



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