LA Metro moves toward creating transit police, ditching LAPD and Sheriff’s Dept.

California

LA Metro’s board of directors voted on Thursday, June 22 to pursue the creation of an in-house transit police department that would replace contracts with its current law enforcement agencies.

Board members emphasized the vote does not set in concrete a 180-degree change in law enforcement tactics and the personnel who patrol L.A. County’s system of buses, subways and light-rail lines. But it does reflect the board’s intention to move ahead by adding specifics to the concept.

  • LAPD Senior Lead Officer Andrew Cullen talks to passengers on...

    LAPD Senior Lead Officer Andrew Cullen talks to passengers on the Metro Red Line on Wednesday, June 28, 2017. LA Metro will hear a report and consider pursuing starting its own in-house Metro PD on Thursday, June 22, 2023. (Photo by Sarah Reingewirtz, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

  • José Orlando, a Metro Transit Ambassador, talks with a passenger...

    José Orlando, a Metro Transit Ambassador, talks with a passenger at the Willowbrook/Rosa Parks station. (photo courtesy of LA Metro)

  • LAPD Senior Lead Officers Andrew Cullen and Camille Sosa remove...

    LAPD Senior Lead Officers Andrew Cullen and Camille Sosa remove a rider with a shopping cart off a Metro Red Line (B Line) train on Wednesday, June 28, 2017. LA Metro Board will consider starting its own Metro PD at its board meeting on Thursday, June 22, 2023. (Photo by Sarah Reingewirtz, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

  • Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Deputy Austin Guastalli, right, one of...

    Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Deputy Austin Guastalli, right, one of nearly a dozen known transgender deputies in the department, joins Deputy Harvey Holt as they patrol the Metro Blue Line on Tuesday, January 1, 2018.
    (Photo by Axel Koester, Contributing Photographer)

  • Mayor Karen Bass addresses dignitaries and guests gathered on Friday,...

    Mayor Karen Bass addresses dignitaries and guests gathered on Friday, June 16, 2023, for the official grand opening of LA Metro’s Regional Connector rail line in Los Angeles. Bass was named the new Metro board chair on Thursday, June 22, 2023. (Photo by Howard Freshman, Contributing Photographer)

  • A Metro A Line train stops on Long Beach Boulevard...

    A Metro A Line train stops on Long Beach Boulevard on Wednesday evening, Oct. 26, 2022, as it nears the last station in downtown Long Beach. Metro Board passed a 2023-2024 budget of $9 billion on Thursday, May 25, 2023 that included increases to rail, bus and security operations. (Photo by Howard Freshman, Contributing Photographer)

“This is a very logical, modest step forward to what an in-house transit security department would look like,” said Glendale City Council member and Metro board chairman Ara Najarian. “By no means is this a fait accompli.”

By an 11-0-1 vote, with Fourth District Supervisor Janice Hahn abstaining, the board directed CEO Stephanie Wiggins to draw up a full-fledged plan for implementing a Metro Police Department with its own officers, investigators and special operations teams.

“We are authorizing you (Wiggins) to come up with a plan (for a transit police department) and then come back to this board,” said Third District Supervisor and Metro board member Lindsey Horvath, who represents the San Fernando Valley and the Westside.

The plan will come before the board in January, when it would vote on whether to approve a Metro transit police department, Wiggins said. An interim progress report on recruiting and negotiations for mutual aid agreements with existing police, sheriffs and fire departments will come before the board in November.

“This is a big step. We have an obligation to flesh it out and see what it will look like. This is not by any means a done deal,” said Fifth District Supervisor and Metro board member Kathryn Barger.

If approved in 2024, it would put an end to contracted patrols from the Los Angeles Police Department, Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department and the Long Beach Police Department. The first two departments have been enforcing the law on trains, stations and buses for decades.

Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass, who takes over as chair of the Metro board in July, said she would meet with LAPD Chief Michel Moore late Thursday. “It is a real opportunity to take a very bold step,” she said.

Starting July 1, LA Metro will pay $173 million for the three contracts. A Metro report highlighting numerous positives concluded an in-house police department would cost $135.4 million, creating a cost saving of 22%. A Metro Police Department would reduce administrative costs from each of the three law enforcement departments, deemed redundant by the report.

The switch would give Metro the power to train and discipline officers and deploy them in segments of the system that need them most. The system has 900,000 boardings a day.

Whittier City Council member and Metro board member Fernando Dutra said he hoped an independent policing department would provide better deployment of officers and make the system safer for riders. “We have some real challenges with safety and security at Metro,” he said.

An intensive public safety crackdown at the crime-infested MacArthur Park/Westlake B Line Station has reduced crime and complaints from the public, a sign that Metro’s pilot anti-crime program is working. In April, the station experienced three crimes against people, as compared to seven at the 7th Street/Metro Station and seven at Wilshire/Vermont Station.

During a four-month stretch from January through April, Metro reported a rash of cell phone thefts, with robberies overall rising from 116 in 2019 to 136 in 2023 during the period of January through April. Also, there were 178 aggravated assaults in 2023 during those four months, as compared to 98 during the same period in 2019.

Looking at rail alone, from January through April 2023 there were 109 aggravated assaults, more than double the 51 reported for the same period in 2019.

Board members were very concerned about bus and rail operator assaults on the rise. In April 2023, LAPD reported 11 as compared to five in 2021; the Sheriff’s Department reported five assaults in April, for a total of 16 in the month of April 2023.

A look at bus driver assaults on the LA Metro system. (SCNG Graphic by Jeff Goertzen)
A look at bus driver assaults on the LA Metro system. (SCNG Graphic by Jeff Goertzen)

Most of the assaults involved mentally ill passengers spitting on bus drivers, or irate passengers throwing bottles at a driver. Several incidents occurred on the Orange Line bus rapid transit system in the San Fernando Valley. A total of five incidents reported by the Sheriff’s Department took place in Malibu, Redondo Beach, Norwalk, South Gate and Carson.

Board member Jacquelyn Dupont-Walker, appointed by Bass and before that by Mayor Eric Garcetti, said she strongly supported a new way to make the county transit system safer and bring back riders who feel threatened.

“This is an opportunity to build a model of a public safety system. On behalf of all Angelenos, we can and must seize this opportunity,” she said.

Hahn said she felt the board needed more information before drawing up a plan that begs a vote in seven months. “This is such a huge shift,” she said. “I wanted six more steps.”

First District Supervisor and Metro board member Hilda Solis agreed that a new public safety entity is needed. “So people will agree to ride with us and come back, I’m in favor of moving ahead,” she said.

Metro had its own police in the 1990s but they were absorbed by the LAPD and LASD in 1997. Hahn said this isn’t a new idea. “It feels like we’ve all done this before,” she said.

Products You May Like

Articles You May Like

Republican Rep. Mike Collins Accuses Biden of Ordering Trump Shooting
Redbox Closing Amid Chicken Soup for the Soul Bankruptcy
Brave New World Gets an Ominous Red Hulk Teaser Poster
Photos show Trump with blood on his face on stage at rally
Biden touts cooling inflation, slams Trump tariffs at press conference