Muni security cameras failed again

The Muni bus where a dead body was found after it had been parked in a storage yard for nearly six hours lacked functioning security cameras, although the system had been tested and worked a week earlier.

A cleaning crew discovered the body of Christopher Feasel, 37, of San Francisco around midnight Oct. 16 aboard a 5-Fulton that had been parked since 6:30 p.m. after completing a rush-hour shift, Muni spokesman Judson True said.

In response to a request from The Examiner, Muni acknowledged that the security cameras aboard the bus were not working during the time leading up to it being parked in the yard. The bus, however, did have functioning cameras just a week before the incident, True said.

Sometime between the testing and the incident the recorders stopped working, he said.

The cameras had been tested as part of a wide-ranging effort to review the technology on all Muni vehicles following previous high-
profile incidents that lacked recordings. Those incidents included the stabbing of a young boy last month and a collision between two streetcars at the West Portal station that injured 48 people July 18. Tests of the cameras are ongoing, True said.

“It’s disappointing,” he said. “We’re working hard to get cameras working.”

Footage from the security cameras may not have told the entire story of what led to Feasel’s death, but it could have provided “a lot of information that you wouldn’t have otherwise,” said David Sklansky, a professor at UC Berkeley’s Boalt Hall School of Law.

A notable example was the widely circulated footage of the fatal shooting of an unarmed passenger by a then-BART police officer at an Oakland station New Year’s Day.

It helped prosecutors build a murder case against the officer.

“The video doesn’t give all the answers, but you’d rather have it than not,” Sklansky said.

The rest of the investigation into the death of Feasel is ongoing.

Muni investigators reviewed tapes from multiple cameras filming the yard and “didn’t observe anything relevant on that footage,” such as someone hopping fences to get in, True said. The bus driver told investigators Feasel did walk onto the bus, but there was nothing unusual about him, True said.

Police are awaiting the results of toxicology tests to determine whether a crime was committed. The tests could take 12 weeks to complete, the medical examiner said.

Ready to roll

Muni says it’s in the process of testing the recording equipment on vehicles and in stations.

  • The technology on some of the cameras is as old as 10 years
  • Most buses and streetcars, about 1,000 vehicles, have four to six cameras
  • There are a total of 5,200 cameras in the fleet
  • There are about 400 cameras at stations
  • The footage is stored in recorders and data packs, which will also be evaluated in the review

Source: SFMTA

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