Cell Phone Video: The Ever-Present Witness - NBC Bay Area

Cell Phone Video: The Ever-Present Witness

Rider captures BART officer scuffing up, arresting passenger



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    BART police are again facing questions about excessive force after a video shows an officer roughing up an unruly passenger.

    Another violent incident, another first-person view, thanks to today's technology.

    Over the weekend, a BART officer arrested a passenger who appeared to be intoxicated and was yelling racial slurs and profanity at other passengers on a train, according to the transit's spokesman. The officer pulled the passenger off the train at the West Oakland station and across the platform. Then they slammed into a plate glass window, sending glass flying and leaving them both bloodied.

    All of the facts could have been denied if it wan't for the gift of today's technology: handheld video capture. Someone inside the train shot the video and posted it on YouTube shortly afterward, under the title "BART cop breaks window w/drunk guy's face." But don't go looking for it on YouTube, the video was removed.

    Investigators will review the video and talk to other witnesses.

    Video Shows BART Officer Scuffle With Passenger

    [BAY] Video Shows BART Officer Scuffle With Passenger
    A BART rider captured video of the scuffle between an allegedly drunk passenger and an officer. Both men slammed into a plate glass window and ended up bloody.
    (Published Monday, Nov. 23, 2009)

    The video is similar in quality to another recent bout of violence between a BART officer and passenger -- the New Year's Day incident between BART officer Johannes Mehserle and Oscar Grant. Another passenger used his cell phone to capture the event on video and it has become an important tool for the investigation. In that case, the officer is facing murder charges.

    Another grainy cell phone video captured in October shows police officers repeatedly hitting an unarmed San Jose State University student with batons and a Taser gun. The incident prompted a criminal probe into the officers' conduct, a San Jose police spokesman said.

    Public transportation meets personal technology provided for another charged incident captured on video. In October, two women got into it over a seat on a Muni bus in San Francisco. There was no police intervention and the video, although disturbing, left many laughing. Police didn't intervene in that case but it still raises questions about the driver, other passengers and why the incident went on for as long as it did.

    But what if nobody had been taking video of those incidents? Investigators would have to rely on witness reports and memories.

    Would it have been just the word of the citizen against the word of officers? We might not ever know. But one thing is for sure, in this day of easily-accessible video-capture tools right at out fingertips, there's always someone watching.