By Caroline Ghisolfi
BART is investigating a group of police officers who handcuffed a man after he was stopped for eating a breakfast sandwich on a BART train platform.
The incident, which occurred around 8 a.m. Monday, sparked controversy after a video of the confrontation was posted on social media Friday morning.
“BART’s independent police auditor received a complaint about this and is reviewing,” said BART Board Vice President Rebecca Saltzman. “I and other BART directors are following up with management about this.”
“It was brought to our attention late this morning. We are in the very early stages of collecting evidence,” said the Police Auditor Russell Bloom, who added that an investigative team is currently reviewing the video posted on social media, as well as footage from the station’s security cameras and police officers’ body cameras.
Meanwhile, residents and officials on social media are rushing to Gluckman’s defense, accusing BART of over policing and targeting people of color. The officers in the video all appeared to be white, while Gluckman appears to be African American.
“To see yet another young black man impacted by law enforcement like this is extremely troubling to me,” said Janice Li, who represents part of San Francisco on BART’s Board of Directors. “This is a question of what we are putting our BART police towards. We know how to make the system better and safer, and this ain’t it.”
— Tone Oliver (@ToneOliver) November 8, 2019
The incident shows a police officer holding on to a man’s backpack while he eats a breakfast sandwich on the Pleasant Hill Station BART platform.
“I’ve just explained to you that you’re detained,” the BART police officer, who is identified on his badge as D. McCormick, tells the man, identified on Facebook as Bill Gluckman from Vallejo.
“You singled me out out of all these people,” Gluckman responds, gesturing towards a handful of passengers getting onto the train.
McCormick initially tells Gluckman that he is being detained for eating on a BART Platform, which is a violation of California law.
However, when Gluckman claims that he was not aware of the law and tries to retrieve his backpack from the officer, McCormick calls for backup, demands Gluckman’s ID and says that he will send him to jail for resisting arrest.
“You’re going to end up going to jail, my man,” the officer tells Gluckman.
“I have no reason to give you my name. I’ve done nothing wrong,” Gluckman responds, pointing out to the person holding the camera that there were no visible “no eating” signs on the platform.
About six minutes into the video, another police officer, identified on his badge as L. Vallejo, reaches the platform with three other armed officials, forcibly turns Gluckman around and handcuffs him.
“Four cops for eating a sandwich?,” Gluckman and the person filming the video say repeatedly to the camera.
The officers say in the video that Gluckman had been arrested on suspicion of additional charges, which had been reported before McCormick spotted him eating on the platform.
“There was a report of somebody matching your description,” Vallejo answered, before taking Gluckman to a locked detention room behind the station.
“I literally just got here. Check the cameras,” Gluckman says loudly as the door shuts in front of the camera.
When the person filming interviews McCormick, the officer said, “I was called here for a woman who was possibly intoxicated. That’s what I was looking for on the platform… I didn’t find anybody who was drunk. (But Gluckman) was directly in front of me.”
According to a tweet posted by BART on Friday, Gluckman was ultimately not arrested and was instead issued a citation.
“No matter how you feel about eating on BART, the officer saw someone eating and asked him to stop, when he didn’t he was given a citation,” the agency said on Twitter.
“We asked police why he was handcuffed and was told the individual was refusing to provide his name which is needed for citation and was lawfully handcuffed,” the agency added.
After the video was circulated on Facebook and Twitter on Friday, many users questioned the way the situation was handled.
“I ate on the bart platform REGULARLY until I stopped taking bart about a year ago… No one ever said a word to me about it. That’s my privilege as a white woman. The officers let me be and apparently pick on others. Talk about selective policing,” said in a comment Facebook user Lindsay Sweetnam, adding that Pleasant Hill was her “home station” for several years.
“There is a policy in place but this has to be the first time I ever seen or heard about it being enforce. I have eaten several times on the platforms in front of BPD and they never said anything,” commented another Facebook user, Gylon GK Terr.
“Can you ask the Independent Police Auditor if this was a good use of the time of four officers across two jurisdictions? And what about the people in this video who walked past the cops with food or drink who were ignored by the police?” a Twitter user added.
Just this June, BART invested $59 million to improve the Quality of Life on trains, after surveyed passengers complained about crowding, poor cleanliness and aging trains and stations.
The initiatives included hiring 19 additional police officers and an ambassador pilot program, an effort modeled after MUNI’s Transit Assistance Program which recently hired 16 unarmed staffers to resolve conflict relating to homelessness, drug use and other community issues.