After a three month delay, a new policing contract that splits the work of patrolling the Metro system between three police agencies was approved by a 12 to 0 vote Thursday by the Metro Board of Directors.
Going forward, the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department will no longer be the sole police agency patrolling Metro buses, trains and facilities. The new contract splits the work between the LASD, the Los Angeles Police Department and the Long Beach Police Department. The LAPD and LBPD will handle much of the work in the city of L.A. and Long Beach, respectively, with the LASD handling areas outside those cities.
Metro staff say the new contracts will increase the number of police patrolling the system at any given time — from 140 to 200 over each 24 hour period at present to 314 under the new deal. Response times will improve by 50 percent, say Metro staff.
The three contracts cover five years and together are worth up to $645.7 million. The Metro Board last year also approved an $82-million contract for increased security officer presence and the agency plans to spend nearly $70 million over five years for Metro in-house security personnel. In total, that’s a five-year investment of up to $797 million to police Metro buses, trains and facilities.
Metro says that a four to six month mobilization will be needed for LAPD, LASD and LBPD to train and mobilize staff.
The Metro Board had previously tried to tackle the issue at their meeting on December 1. But the Board voted 7 to 4 to delay the vote of a politically-loaded issue, given the sway that police unions have in local elections (i.e. elected officials often seek their endorsement). In the time since, the Metro Board changed with three new members and local media have continued to point to a decline in Metro ridership, which some attribute to riders leaving the system due to safety concerns.
LASD reports say that crime actually fell 9.8 percent on the Metro system in 2016 from 2015. In a related action on Thursday, Metro CEO Phil Washington also announced a “security surge” on the Blue Line to better enforce the agency’s Code of Conduct and ensure riders feel safe.
Last fall, LASD officials put up a fight over the new contract, publicly stating that splitting the work with the LAPD and LBPD would make the system less safe. This month, officials have been more muted and Board Members on Thursday said the new deal was more a reflection of a growing system.
“We could put five times as many officers in the field but unfortunately we’ve expanded transportation so much it’s really tough to cover it,” said County Supervisor and Board Member Sheila Kuehl. “I think this alliance isn’t so much a critique of the sheriff’s — it’s more that we have to” [keep expanding security].
Supervisor and Board Member Kathryn Barger said that she wasn’t entirely convinced the blended approach would work and inquired about how Union Station would be patrolled. The answer: in the first phase of the contract, the LAPD would be in charge. Barger encouraged more oversight by Metro staff.
L.A. Councilman and Board Member Mike Bonin said that he initially feared the LAPD would be diverted from neighborhood patrols but came to believe that having LAPD patrol Metro will actually result in a more visible presence in more neighborhoods. “I think this is a good thing and I’m glad to see it,” Bonin said.