OAKLAND (KPIX 5) — BART is backpedaling on its explanation for why it is refusing to release surveillance video.
BART does not routinely release surveillance video out of concern for perpetuating racial stereotypes.
But BART’s executive director of external communications, Kerry Hamill, is changing her tune.
We wanted to know more about a memo and email Hamill wrote, saying that one reason BART doesn’t always issue press releases or surveillance video when crimes happen, is because they don’t want to unfairly characterize riders of color.
But when confronted, she did not tell KPIX 5 the truth.
Hamill says the reason BART hasn’t turned over surveillance video of three recent robberies involving multiple attackers is because the agency believes the perpetrators are minors.
Hamill said, “The statements that I made to the board members were that we don’t release when it comes to minors.”
But Hamill didn’t mention minors or anything about the age of suspects in a July 7, 2017 memo where she laid out the agency’s policy of public access to crime data. In the memo, she wrote that press releases could “unfairly affect and characterize riders of color.”
When pressed, Hamill said, “The word minor is definitely in the memo.”
But that is not true. We checked the memo, there is no reference to minors or people’s ages.
“The word minor is definitely in the memo. I was definitely talking about video in relationship to minors,” Hamill said.
A BART board member asked Hamill to elaborate on the memo. And she did.
In an emailed response, Hamill expressed concern about sensationalizing videos that “involve minority suspects, particularly when they are minors.”
But in three paragraphs about race and the media that’s the only reference Hamill made to minors, so we asked her again.
KPIX 5 asked, “You didn’t even mention the idea of the notion that these people were juveniles and your initial memo to the Board of Directors and you only mentioned that they were minors once in the follow up email you spent far more time talking about not perpetuating racial stereotypes could you please address that?”
“The conversation about releasing the video has been going on for months,” Hamill responded.
The memo also said releasing crime information would make BART look “crime ridden” to publicize “petty crimes” like the recent robberies.
“We know that our riders are concerned about it, and we’re very concerned with making sure that there’s a number of strategies that are underway now,” Hamill said.
To be clear, Hamill is the person who decides what crime information is made public.
The police chief makes recommendations, but she is where the buck stops.
And apparently, she decided in the last three days to change her policy.
BART has just decided to stop sending out a police log, making it harder for journalists and the public to know the details about criminal activity on the system.
BART is now using something called crimemapping.com, which gives very basic information, like a robbery at 8 p.m. at a location.
The police log had more narrative detail.
When you ask BART about this, they point out other jurisdictions use crimemapping too.
But we asked BART, do other police agencies only using crimemapping with no other detailed information?
“I’m not aware of an agency that just uses crimemapping,” Chief Carlos Rojas said. “It’s just one component of your outreach to the media so I wouldn’t promote using that in lieu of press releases or a press conference or anything like that.”
To be fair, Chief Rojas has only been with BART for a month and a half, and he says he is working with the communications department to provide more detailed information on an ongoing basis.