BART earns prestigious honor for innovation in public safety

12.17.20

BART earns prestigious honor for innovation in public safety

BART is earning special recognition for pursuing creative strategies to improve system safety. The national foundation TransitCenter has presented BART and its Board of Directors with the Award for Innovation in Public Safety at its Frequencies awards ceremony in New York.  The honor recognizes BART for pursuing alternative models of safety and specifically highlights the launch of the District’s new Ambassador Program earlier this year. 

“We believe this program is one of the best in the nation,” said BART Board Director Lateefah Simon at the award ceremony.  Simon served as Board President when the Ambassador Program was approved.  “We can continue advancing a new way forward.  While we’re steel and trains our purpose is that we’re there for people.  We’re there to create civil society and make sure mobility is a right and not a privilege,” said Simon.

The BART Police Department launched the Ambassador Pilot Program on February 10, 2020 with a goal to increase the presence of uniformed, unarmed, non-sworn personnel to boost the agency’s visible presence on trains.  The pilot program included 10 Ambassadors who received de-escalation and anti-bias training.

During the 10-month pilot program BART Ambassadors performed 5,700 platform checks, rode 4,400 trains, and made 7,300 educational contacts with riders.  Based on the accomplishments of the pilot, the BART Board formalized the Ambassador Program in October 2020 and approved the addition of 10 new Crisis Intervention Specialists and an additional Community Outreach Specialists.

“We wanted to do something different and it’s part of reimagining what public safety is about,” said BART Board Director Bevan Dufty.  “The best response to people who may be homeless, who may have mental illness, who may be addicted may not necessarily involve an armed officer.”

The launch of the Ambassador Program is part of BART Police Chief Ed Alvarez’s commitment to progressive policing.  BART is wrapping up an extensive outreach effort on new public safety approaches that emphasize responding to homelessness, behavioral health, and substance abuse issues without relying on armed officers.

“This program is the result of a collaborative effort,” said BART Police Chief Ed Alvarez.  “Our Ambassadors are a force multiplier, they provide us more eyes and ears out in the system, and they supplement what we’re doing with our sworn police officers.” 

TransitCenter gives out Frequencies annually to recognize outstanding achievements in the transit industry.