A BART police officer caught on tape trying to persuade a teen armed robbery victim not to file a police report because it would be a “waste of resources” is facing an internal affairs investigation after NBC Bay Area’s Investigative Unit obtained a recording of that phone call.
The victim, a 17-year-old from New York visiting friends and family in the Bay Area, says he and his cousins were robbed at gunpoint while waiting to pick up a friend at Oakland’s Fruitvale BART station.
“I had pulled in the parking lot and two men pulled up behind and basically blocked me in with their car and came at us with guns pointed, and basically told us, ‘phones and wallets,’” Mike, the victim, said. NBC Bay Area is not identifying his last name because he is a juvenile.
But more surprising than being robbed at gunpoint, Mike said, was how a BART police officer following up on the robbery relentlessly discouraged him from filing a police report.
“She just came up with maybe five or six reasons on why not to make a report,” Mike said. “She said if you’re going to get new phones and wallets, why make a report? And then I insisted that something like this has to be documented, just to have if anything ever happened or if the ID’s or phones were ever found, it would be nice to have the police report. And she didn’t want to make the police report. She said it would be a waste of resources.”
In a partial recording of that phone conversation viewed by NBC Bay Area, the BART officer can be heard rebuffing Mike’s multiple attempts to file a report.
Listen to portions of the call here:
“You guys all live in New York, why exactly do you want this report?” the unidentified BART officer tells Mike at the beginning of the recording. “You guys are all getting new phones, what do you want the report for? At the end of the day, most of these guys are long gone. Usually the cars they’re in are stolen so there’s nothing really to trace them in. What exactly do you want the report for? Cause if you said everyone is getting new phones tomorrow, then why make a report, especially if you’re going back home to New York, why make a report in California for it?”
When Mike insisted he wanted the report filed, in part because personal information was stolen and he was concerned about potential identity theft, the officer continued to dissuade him.
“But you realize writing the report – there’s really no point,” the unidentified BART officer can be heard saying.
Later in the phone call, the BART officer tells Mike, “And again, like I just said, most of the cars people drive in to do robberies – they’re stolen or they cold plate them, which means they put license plates on that don’t belong to the vehicle, so that’s why I’m saying this report being written is really a waste of resources.”
Mike said there was no additional follow up from BART officers, and he was told surveillance cameras did not capture the robbery. One of the suspects opened Mike’s car door during the robbery, he said, but BART officers never tried to lift the suspect's fingerprints from the vehicle.
When Mike asked whether he could have a copy of a police report mailed to him in New York, he was told he would have to come back to California and pick it up in person.
After reviewing the recording obtained by NBC Bay Area, BART Police Chief Carlos Rojas called the conduct of the officer “unacceptable.” He said despite the officer's comments on the phone, she did in fact end up writing a report, although Mike says he never received a copy.
“I was definitely concerned by the comments that were made by the officer during that interaction,” Rojas said.
Rojas opened an internal affairs investigation into the officer, who he declined to identify.
“I want to emphasize that these were the actions of once officer and we’re going to hold the officer accountable,” Rojas said, while also acknowledging the officer has the right to due process.
Rojas said the department is also following up on the criminal investigation into the robbery, although he said he could not offer any specifics.
According to police data, violent crime on BART rose by 57% between 2013 and 2017. Rojas attributed much of that to a rise in phone and purse snatches, and said he hopes to soon increase the number of officers on patrol.
Mike, though, wondered if the officer he spoke with tried to talk him out of filing a report in an effort to suppress crime statistics.
“Absolutely not,” Rojas said. “That would be completely inaccurate. The officers know the expectations here of the police department.”
Mike said he hopes the recording might change how BART officers interact with the public.
“If [the recording] is published, BART would have more pressure to do the right thing instead of brush people off.”