Podcast: Follow Along on Patrol with Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) Police

Sept. 28, 2016
Episode 2 of our podcast series "Hidden Tracks: Stories from BART." An inside look at what it’s like to be on patrol with a Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) police officer. Sergeant Michael Williamson talks about why he still loves his job.

Episode 2 of our podcast series "Hidden Tracks: Stories from BART." An inside look at what it’s like to be on patrol with a Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) police officer. Sergeant Michael Williamson talks about why he still loves his job after 13 years with BPD.

Transcript below.

“How are guys doing? Good, how are you? Good so far.”

BART police officers wear many hats when they’re on patrol.

The top priority is of course public safety.

“What we’re going to do right now is conduct a sweep of the train car. We’re looking for anything that might stand out. Any misplaced packages, unattended packages. Persons that are causing any type of conflict with other patrons. Anyone smoking, anyone eating or drinking.”

Many times, officers will pick a spot at a busy station and watch for fare evaders.

“We’re looking for suspicious packages, suspicious people, crime occurring in front of us, somebody flagging us down and saying hey this just occurred.”

But there are also lighter moments.

“….uggh…..how do we get to Montgomery Street.

When riders have a question, many will approach a BART cop for an answer.

“You’re both young and healthy, your judgement. You can use your ticket right here, walk up that set of stairs and it’s only two and a half blocks in front of you. OK. It’s an easy walk, it’s a fun walk, it’s a beautiful downtown right now. Yeah, we’ve never seen San Francisco, we’ll do it. So use your ticket, head up and just head two and a half blocks that direction. OK, thanks. Have a safe day.”

Meet Sergeant Michael Williamson.

He’s been a member of the BART police force for 13 years and loves his job.

Sergeant Williamson is currently part of the Critical Asset Protection Team….a unit funded by Homeland Security to protect the BART system.

He’s had a variety of assignments including work as a training officer and being on tactical teams for big events like Raiders games.

He says that variety as well as being able to work so many different beats makes the BART police department unique from other law enforcement agencies.

“All those different tasks, all those different units, because you have the ability to do all that it makes your career not fly by but it gives you so many experiences throughout your career that you’re not going to get that elsewhere.”

In his time with BART, Williamson has had plenty of memorable moments…..including some where lives were on the line.

“We had a gentleman fall onto the trackway, downtown San Francisco, and he was very large. And I happened to be the only one on the platform and so I grabbed my flashlight, I put it on strobe and I threw it in the direction of the train that was coming in just so they knew something was wrong. Train operator saw it and slowed down. But it took three of us to get him out of the trackway and him jumping just to get him out before the train came in.”

Most days, Williamson’s focus is on less exciting but still important enforcement opportunities….like making sure people don’t eat or drink on trains.

“So that sign, no eating or drinking. I’m not tripping on the fact that the cans open, just make sure it gets in the trash when you’re done. Alright cool. Have a safe day.”

And of course there are always a few riders who take up two seats for a nap.

“You ok buddy? Yeah, oh Yeah. We’ll nobody can get past your feet. Oh. It’s just a welfare check, don’t’ trip.”

When they’re on patrol, BART officers have to ride at least six trains and make contact with a minimum of three riders.

Williamson says every contact with a rider has a purpose.

“By making those informational contacts, you have the ability to affect not just the person you’re talking to but the rest of the train car.”

And many BART riders appreciate his efforts….as became apparent as we were talking about his job.

“Making sure that if there is an emergency, that there’s nobody laying down in the way and that persons could effectively evacuate the station. You’re doing a great job. Thanks, appreciate that.”

Right now there are some 140 sworn officers patrolling the BART system.

The department wants to hire about 30 more.