The general manager of the San Francisco Bay Area commuter train system apologized Monday to a man who was handcuffed and cited last week for eating a sandwich on one of its platforms, CBS San Francisco reports. The apology came in the wake of widespread criticism of Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) and its police department over the way the officer handled the situation.
The incident occurred on November 4 at around 8 a.m., when an officer went to the Pleasant Hill station platform to look for a woman who was reportedly drunk.
While looking for the woman, he spotted a man eating a breakfast sandwich and asked him to stop. Eating is not permitted on the platforms.
After he was unable to find the woman, the officer passed by the rider, who was still eating the sandwich despite the request that he stop. The officer then wrote a citation and handcuffed the man, who was later identified as Steven Foster.
The officer said Foster was resisting arrest, and that he was being detained for not cooperating. Video of the incident posted on social media led to an avalanche of criticism over the officer's actions.
In the apology statement, BART general manager Bob Powers said, "As a transportation system our concern with eating is related to the cleanliness of our stations and system. This was not the case in the incident at Pleasant Hill station on Monday."
While he noted that Foster "refused to provide identification, cursed at and made homophobic slurs at the officer who remained calm through out the entire engagement," Powers said that the context of the situation was important.
"Enforcement of infractions such as eating and drinking inside our paid area should not be used to prevent us from delivering on our mission to provide safe, reliable, and clean transportation," the statement read.
In the statement, Powers goes on to say he was "disappointed how the situation unfolded. I apologize to Mr. Foster, our riders, employees, and the public who have had an emotional reaction to the video."
On Friday, CBS San Francisco got a chance to speak with Foster about the incident. He still felt that he had done nothing wrong by eating in the station.
"I don't regret any of it, but I could've expressed myself a little better," Foster said. He also felt that the officer singled him out because he is African American.
"Most definitely. I deal with that every day," said Foster.
As to whether or not he would eat on BART again, Foster answered with certainty.
"Hell yeah! If I'm hungry, I'm going to eat," he said.
BART management and the transit system's police department have faced heavy criticism over criminal activity on BART — including the fatal stabbing of Oakland teen Nia Wilson — and rampant drug use that at one point took over an area of the Civic Center Station in San Francisco.
Powers closed the statement saying he had discussed his feelings about the incident with interim Police Chief Ed Alvarez and the independent police auditor investigating the incident.