Bill to ban BART, other agencies from shutting off cellphone service goes to governor

Mike Koozmin/2011 S.F. Examiner file photoResearchers are concerned that California's new kill switch bill may enable rogue cellphone shutdowns. BART fanned controversy in 2011 when it shut down mobile service in its San Francisco stations in hopes of preventing a protest.

Mike Koozmin/2011 S.F. Examiner file photoResearchers are concerned that California's new kill switch bill may enable rogue cellphone shutdowns. BART fanned controversy in 2011 when it shut down mobile service in its San Francisco stations in hopes of preventing a protest.

A bill that would restrict government agencies from interrupting or shutting down cellphone service — as BART did two years ago, leading to a series of protests — is heading to Gov. Jerry Brown, who vetoed similar legislation last year.

Senate Bill 380 was a response to BART's internationally controversial decision in 2011 to shut down mobile service at its four downtown San Francisco stations during a threatened protest.

The legislation, introduced by state Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Pacoima, would require all government entities to obtain a court order within six hours of a crisis situation before shutting down or interrupting service for mobile devices.

The bill passed the Senate on Friday; Brown would need to sign it for it to become law.

Last year, Brown vetoed an earlier version of the legislation. He argued that the process of obtaining a court order could delay law enforcement agencies from responding appropriately to certain emergencies. The bill was amended this year in an attempt to address the governor's concerns, offering more leeway for a shutdown by agencies during critical situations.

BART faced international scrutiny and criticism following its decision Aug. 11, 2011, to shut down mobile service in San Francisco. The agency did so as a means to prevent protesters from halting service by chaining themselves to trains. The demonstration, which never materialized, was related to the fatal shooing of 45-year-old Charles Hill by BART police officers at the Civic Center station.

Nearly four months after the incident, BART adopted its own policy on the matter. The policy states that mobile service can only be interrupted in “extraordinary circumstances,” such as when there is strong evidence that cellphones may be used to set off explosives, or facilitate violent crime or specific plans to destroy transit agency property or substantially disrupt public transit service.

maldax@sfexaminer.com

Alex PadillaBARTBay Area NewsSan Francisco

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