BART hires Carlos Rojas as new police chief

SAN FRANCISCO (KTVU) -- BART General Manager Grace Crunican announced Friday that BART is hiring Santa Ana Police Chief Carlos Rojas to be the transit agency's new police chief.

Rojas, who's expected to begin working at BART in late May or early June, will replace former chief Kenton Rainey, who retired at the end of last year after seven years as chief.

Rojas has been Santa Ana's police chief for the last five years and has worked for the department in Orange County since 1990.

2 Investigates looked deeper into Rojas’ background and found he’ll be leaving Santa Ana with both praise and criticism.

In what was likely his most high-profile officer accountability case, Rojas fired an officer in May 2016. That officer had been criminally charged for stealing edibles and breaking security cameras during a police raid of a pot shop. When a Santa Ana city appeals board considered reinstating the officer, Rojas stood by his decision.

That action prompted criticism from some law enforcement and city officials that Rojas was too tough on low-level officers but too soft on their higher-up.

He was also criticized after Santa Ana saw a record number of shootings. Other city leaders praised Rojas for holding officers accountable for wrongdoing.

"When we spoke to him about those issues, he reassured us that a lot that was bringing change in terms of community policing and sometimes there’s resistance to change," Trost said. "We did an extensive background check, and no police chief is going to come with no baggage."

Trost said Rojas will tackle a number of big issues when he arrives to the Bay Area. They include BART police officer recruitment and increasing visibility of officers at stations and on trains.

BART’s offer is contingent upon Rojas’ successful completion of psychological exams and a satisfactory background check, which could take up to 30 days to complete.

BART officials said in a statement, "Rojas brings 27 years of extensive experience and leadership in community policing. He is not only an advocate but also an educator in community-oriented policing practices, having trained the discipline to national police forces in Central America and having taught and mentored college students on the subject."

They said Rojas also brings U.S. Department of Homeland Security expertise and knowledge to BART.

"The (BART) police department has been moving in the right direction and I am confident that our new chief will accelerate our efforts to increase the visibility of police officers on our trains and in our stations," Crunican said in a statement.

Crunican said, "I have asked the new chief to focus attention on our police recruitment practices to ensure the department is able to hire a full complement of officers."

BART's Citizen Review Board participated in the hiring of Rojas, according to transit agency officials.

Cydia Garrett, the group's chairperson, said, "Chief Rojas is a great choice and I'm confident he will provide strong leadership as the department's new chief."

BART officials said Rojas is a recipient of multiple law enforcement Medals of Valor, is bilingual in English and Spanish and is the department's first Latino police chief.

They said their job offer is contingent upon Rojas' successful completion of psychological exams and a satisfactory background check, which could take up to 30 days to complete.

By KTVU reporter Candice Nguyen. Bay City News contributed to this report.