Police ordered to the Fruitvale Station in response to a reported fight on a train early Jan. 1 didn't know what they were getting into, ignored protocols for dealing with large crowds and got no help from superiors who failed to show up, according to the report by the law firm Meyers Nave.
BART hired the firm to determine what went wrong before former Officer Johannes Mehserle shot train rider Oscar Grant of Hayward to death on the Fruitvale platform. The answer, the firm told BART officials in a report dated Aug. 11, was pretty much everything.
Among the findings, which BART publicly released late Tuesday:
-- The operator of the Dublin-Pleasanton train where the fight reportedly took place "provided little insight" to help police, who arrived on the platform lacking a firm idea of what was going on. To this day, it's unclear whether Grant and other men pulled from the train were involved in the fight, the report says.
-- Once there, the officers ignored such basic tactics as going from car to car as a team and searching detained suspects. Instead, the officers were scattered around the station platform, working independently of each other.
-- No supervising BART officer showed up to impose order. The report says bluntly, "No one appeared to be in charge."
Under Chief Gary Gee - who announced his planned retirement a few days after the report landed at BART - police supervisors apparently were never told they should take command of such major incidents, the law firm's investigators found.
"In this case, an experienced supervisor would have proven invaluable in controlling the scene, managing resources (and) directing the force actions by officers," the report says.
A steady command would have also "limited (the) force used," it says.
The report makes no mention of Mehserle's fatal shooting of Grant, which happened as Grant lay facedown on the platform. But it does recommend additional training of BART officers in the use of Tasers and changes that would make it less likely that an officer would draw a firearm by mistake - which is how Mehserle's lawyers have explained the shooting as they try to keep him from being convicted of murder.
The report also suggested that BART update its police manual, noting that, "although the manual cover states that it was updated in 2008, many policies have not been updated since the late 1970s, 1980s or 1990s."
That pretty much spans the career of Gee, 64, who joined the BART force in 1973 and became chief in 2000. He told BART directors in recent days that he will retire Dec. 30, on the heels not just of the shooting report, but also directors' decision to diminish his authority by hiring a police auditor and creating a civilian police board.
Gee did not return a call Tuesday seeking comment.
John Burris, an attorney who is representing Grant's family in its $50 million wrongful-death lawsuit against BART, said the report "condemns the department from top to bottom."
"It outlines a failure of leadership, poor training, antiquated policies and lousy on-the-scene supervision, which had it been proper would have avoided the shooting," Burris said.
Jesse Sekhon, president of the 250-member BART Police Officers Association, said the document is "a very comprehensive review of the night. It definitely shows some things in the department need to improve."
BART spokesman Linton Johnson said the agency was already taking steps, such as strengthening use-of-force policies and increasing officer training.
Still, BART Director Joel Keller, who represents Contra Costa County, said the report shows "we have a lot of work to do at the police department."
"Chief Gee has had a long and distinguished career," Keller said, "but a change of leadership at this time would probably not be a bad thing."
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This article appeared on page A - 1 of the San Francisco Chronicle