OAKLAND (KCBS) – Police officers and prosecutors who work in the four counties served by Bay Area Rapid Transit are eligible for smartcards that allow them to ride for free when they are off duty, BART officials announced Wednesday.

For years, BART has given free rides to off-duty police who flash a badge to the station agent. The smartcards formalize a policy meant to reduce crime by encouraging a stronger police presence on BART, said Officer Era Jenkins, spokeswoman for the BART Police Department.

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KCBS’ Jeffrey Schaub Reports:

“The presence of law enforcement officers on our system, even when they’re off-duty, it enhances the safety for all of our passengers,” she said.

Jenkins pointed to a recent case where a woman was robbed and beaten aboard a train also being ridden by an off-duty deputy with the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office.

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“When the train arrived at the station, he was able to point the suspects out as well as to assist in arresting them,” she said.

Jenkins said passengers should not be concerned about the misuse of weapons by off-duty police riding under the Law Enforcement Security Enhancement Program.

“If a peace officer actually does have a weapon, they are trained to use it. They’re trained to know how and when to use it,” Jenkins said.

Weapons training figured prominently in the trial of Johannes Mehserle, the former BART officer convicted of involuntary manslaughter for the 2009 shooting death of Oscar Grant at Fruitvale Station.

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