PLEASANT HILL, CA — The BART police department is hiring, but the transit agency is struggling to fill the open positions at a time when violent crime is on the rise.
The president of the union that represents BART officers says filling those positions will help keep passengers safe.
A quick glance at some of the starting police salaries in cities along the BART transit system shows BART police at the bottom.
- Fremont police officer $99,146
- Concord police $85,488
- Daly City police officer $85,776
- Union City police officer $72,096
- BART police officer $67,821
“When I came into the department 26 years ago, it was the highest paid in the area,” BART Police Officers Association President Keith Garcia said.
That is no longer the case and the lower pay scale is having an impact on hiring new officers, which is directly linked to keeping passengers safe, Garcia said.
“Absolutely, because we are in four counties, soon to be five,” Garcia said. “We are spread out pretty thin. Right now, we have about one officer for every two stations and that is not including people riding the trains which should be raised up a lot from the current staffing levels. So yeah, it’s a challenge.”
BART currently has 156 patrol officers, but the police department is budgeted for 176 officers.
“I think we need to get up to full staffing,” Garcia said. “To do that, we need to get a market-based salary, something that’s competitive to attract people and keep the people we have.”
Bart Board Director Debora Allen agrees.
“We have to take a look at whether we’re competitive if we want to attract those officers and fill those positions,” Allen said. “I would love to put 50 more positions in our budget, but until we can fill the ones, we actually have budgeted. That doesn’t make a lot of sense.”
So, what is BART’s plan to keep passengers safe in the meantime?
“We are doing everything that we can right now,” Allen said. “There is mandatory overtime in place, I believe for all of our officers, to try to fill the gaps. But I hope that the public is going to understand that we didn’t get here overnight. The deficiency in the number of officers took a very long time, years, to get to, and it’s going to take some time to resolve it.