Frustrated with local law enforcement, Los Angeles County transportation officials Thursday rejected their proposals for a new contract to patrol buses and trains and signed off on a plan to explore creating a dedicated police force.
The move was a reprimand from local law enforcement, which is the backbone of security for Metro and has cost the agency $912 million over the past six years. An audit by the Office of Inspector General last year found that police agencies had poor system visibility, no adequate means of overseeing the deployment of officers, and a lack of transparency in their process for handling citizen complaints.
Nonetheless, the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority board of directors approved the extension of the current policing contract with the Los Angeles Police Department, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and the Long Beach Police Department for an additional year, with a clause allowing an annual extension until 2026
The board voted 11 to 1 in favor of the contract, with board member and supervisor Holly Mitchell abstaining. Supervisor Lindsey Horvath threw out the lone dissent.
The contract was limited to June 30th.
“We pay a lot of money for these contracts and it’s clear that crime is a problem. Perception of crime is a problem,” said Metro Board Member and District Manager Janice Hahn. “It almost feels like we’re giving these three agencies another chance.”
The audit found that sheriff’s deputies worked mostly from squad cars outside of stations and buses, and only 12 out of 178 weekly shifts drove the trains. LAPD officers patrolled the stations more, but just over half of the 911 calls were answered by patrol officers not assigned to Metro.
Last year, violent crime in the system was 40% above pre-pandemic levels when ridership was much higher.
Metro originally sought proposals for a new security contract, but halted efforts after the LAPD and Beverly Hills Police Department refused to fully integrate the agency’s operational strategies and oversight.
“Accepting these proposals would have resulted in inconsistent monitoring of our transit system, which would have been detrimental to Metro, our employees and our customers,” said Metro spokesman Dave Sotero, accepting the status quo — which clearly isn’t working.”
Social justice groups have called on the agency to sever ties with departments, arguing the money could be better spent on social services such as homeless aid and improvements to train stations, including bathrooms.
It comes as Metro tries to take a more holistic approach to policing. On Thursday it passed an open-minded police policy designed to prevent racial profiling and recently added ambassadors to help drivers find their way or accompany them if they feel unsafe. It also subsidizes a protection program.
Both the LAPD and the Sheriff’s Department said they are working closely with Metro and are willing to address their complaints, although they disagreed with some of the audit’s findings.
As part of the contractual process, board approval pre-authorizes Metro to negotiate an extension.
Horvath tried to overturn this with an alternative proposal that would give the board a final say on the contract. It ultimately failed.
“We can’t blindly spend taxpayers’ money on contracted services without knowing what we’re getting in return,” she said. “We don’t have specific details on the use and accountability of these agencies.”
https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2023-03-23/amid-rising-crime-metro-looks-at-creating-own-transit-police-force Los Angeles County transit officials look at creating their own police force