Cities prepare for reaction to Mehserle verdict 

Bay Area law enforcement officials are bracing for a regional backlash even as attorneys continue closing arguments in the murder trial of a former BART police officer in Los Angeles today.

San Francisco Police Department Lt. Lyn Tomioka said the department is prepared in case any potential response to the verdict spills into The City.

“We have a lot of experience with large demonstrations,” she said. “It’s really a daily event for us, though the size could be different, our officers are trained and continually trained for this.”

Johannes Mehserle, 28, a former BART police officer, is on trial for murder in the Jan. 1, 2009, killing of Oscar Grant III, 22.

In the weeks after the incident, riots and protests filled the streets of downtown Oakland. Mehserle is white, Grant was black.

BART Police Lt. Andy Alkire said though most of the events, if any, could be concentrated in Oakland, it is a regional issue that many people are watching.

“We’re prepared for the worst, but hoping for the best,” he said. “We are have coordinated and prepared with other agencies in case we need mutual aid.”

BART police officers began 12-hour shifts Thursday in preparation for any public reaction.

Tomioka said the SFPD will not be increasing enforcement, but the department has been meeting with community groups and faith-based organizations in hopes that any demonstration that could take place will be peaceful.

Grant’s family issued a statement saying they hope no matter what the verdict, any reactions would be loud, but not violent.

BART officials are offering up-to-date information via text messages if there are service interruptions once the trial verdict is announced.

akoskey@sfexaminer.com

Bay City News contributed to this report.

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