A new contract to provide law enforcement on the Metro system will be considered by the Metro Board of Directors at their Dec. 1 meeting.
The current contract expires Dec. 31 and is with the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department (LASD), who have policed the Metro system since 2009. The five-year contract proposed by Metro staff is not-to exceed $546 million and would split that work between the LASD, the Los Angeles Police Department and the Long Beach Police Department.
From the Metro staff report, the new contract is being proposed because it:
•Establishes consistent, reliable staffing of approximately 240 law enforcement officers per 24 hour period, which is an improvement over the current staffing which ranges from approximately 160 to 200 personnel assigned to the system each day.
•Increases emphasis on patrolling the bus system and corridors. Grows the bus riding team from 6 to 34 law enforcement officers, a 466 percent increase in staffing level and coverage.
•Maximizes law enforcement staffing at a favorable cost. The total estimated five year contract value of a multi-agency award is $526.6M – $546.6 million. LASD’s proposal for the entire service area was $627.1 million. A multi-agency award improves service and delivers an estimated $80 -100.5 million in cost savings.
•Provides flexibility to enhance security as the transit system grows over the next 5 year period.
Metro staff, including CEO Phil Washington, said repeatedly that safety and security of passengers is the agency’s top priority and that the new contract would make police more visible on/in Metro buses, trains and facilities. One statistic oft-cited: in a Metro survey of former riders, 29 percent said they no longer ride because they didn’t feel safe enough.
Other large transit agencies — including ones in Denver and Portland — have multiple police departments handling calls on their systems. A multi-police agency approach, Metro staff said, would improve response times and eliminate staffing shortages that often occur during LASD shift changes and in the evening, when overtime work is often required. “Staffing is unpredictable; based on the current model I can’t predict what my staffing is going to be day to day,” Alex Wiggins, Metro’s Chief of System Security and Law Enforcement, told two Metro Board committees on Thursday.
Board Members had many questions, many concerning the effectiveness of splitting policing work between three police departments. “When we talk about three police agencies that makes me exceedingly, exceedingly nervous,” said Board Member and L.A. Council Member Paul Krekorian, adding he would need a very high level of confidence to vote for the new contract.
Officials from the LASD and their union said the new contract is ill-advised and could create logistical problems. When asked by County Supervisor and Board Member Sheila Kuehl why the riding public has lost confidence in the LASD, Sheriff Jim McDonnell said that if LASD could expand the number of officers deployed to the system, it could increase visibility. But “that wouldn’t be the cost savings that Metro is looking for,” he added.
Other questions involved the use of overtime pay by the LAPD to deploy officers to the Metro system and how police would respond to calls that involve potential crimes that go beyond city boundaries. County Supervisor and Board Member Mark Ridley-Thomas also said that he found it “unseemly” to see different police agencies vying so strongly for the same contract.
Below is audio and video from the Metro Board’s System Safety, Security and Operations Committee held Thursday morning. The discussion of the proposed contract begins at the 2:45 mark.
All of the Metro staff reports and and attachments are here.
Outside coverage of this issue in the Los Angeles Times is here.
The latest crime stats on Metro from the LASD are here; the report says that part one crimes (the most serious offenses) are down 14 percent from January through September of this year compared to 2015.
And here is an embed of the main staff report:
And here is the agency’s policing strategy: