Metro Board to consider $111-million increase to law enforcement contracts in March

UPDATE, MARCH 18: The item has returned to the Board in March but the contract amount has been amended to $36 million to cover costs for the remainder of 2021. Here is the new staff report. From the report:

Additional contract authority is being requested to cover significant costs incurred since the beginning of the contract period to (1) argument outreach services to the unhoused population, address crime trends, sexual harassment; and (2) enhanced deployments to cover special events, employee and customer complaints, or other unforeseen circumstances. An additional $36M is being requested for services through December 31, 2021.

Metro staff also said that the agency’s new Public Safety Advisory Committee will begin meeting this spring and that their recommendations can be piloted during the last six months of the current five-year law enforcement contract that expires at the end of June 2022.

UPDATE, FEB. 25: The Metro Board has decided to reschedule this item as part of the March round of meetings. 

UPDATE, FEB. 24: The rescheduling of this item to the March meeting is pending Board consensus tomorrow, so be sure to tune in to the Metro Board meeting at 10 a.m. for the latest. If there are any changes to the item next month, we’ll update the post below to reflect those changes.

The Metro Board of Directors on Thursday will consider a $111-million increase to a five-year law enforcement contract with the Los Angeles Police Department, Long Beach Police Department and the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department. The funds would pay for resources requested by Metro that have been spent to address key quality of life issues our customers have asked us to tackle — including mitigations like homeless outreach — since the contract began in July 2017. Here is the Metro staff report.

Improving safety has been a key concern for our transit customers over the past several years as indicated by Metro rider surveys and the “How Women Travel” study. It is a key performance indicator for Metro’s Customer Experience Plan and strategic plan to retain and attract riders.

Some quick background: In early 2017, the Metro Board approved a new five year, $645.7-million law enforcement contract with three law enforcement agencies to expand the number of law enforcement personnel on the system each day by 50 percent and to reduce response time to calls. This was a new approach for Metro, which contracted only with the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department in the previous policing contract.

The contract has proven beneficial. Crime began falling on the Metro system in 2015 and the trend continued under the new contract. Overall, more serious crimes (known as Part 1 crimes) fell by nearly 23 percent between 2015 and 2019 and less serious crimes (known as Part 2) declined by 11 percent; see this Source post for more.

In the last year with ridership down due to the pandemic, overall crime fell another 29.6 percent from 2019 — although in the past few months there has been an uptick in assaults mostly by unhoused people in cognitive crisis. Metro, its PATH outreach team and law enforcement is working to address this situation.

The additional $111 million to be voted on by the Board this week would be used to pay for a number of key successful safety and security initiatives that Metro has employed since the current policing contract began in July 2017. These include:

•Deploying more officers specially trained in conflict de-escalation and avoidance of use-of-force on Metro buses and trains and the system for routine patrols — in particular on the B Line (Red) and D Line (Purple) subway. More officers were also needed to support Metro service to both planned events (sports, for example) and unplanned events (demonstrations, for example).

•Assigning law enforcement to support Metro’s Path Teams in their homeless outreach efforts during a time of an unprecedented homeless crisis in our county and on the Metro transit system. This includes Metro’s Operation Shelter the Unsheltered Program, which since early last year has helped about 700 people secure shelter and connect to many others to social services. In short, our contract contains essential community relations, ambassador and other non-law enforcement causes. 

•Increased efforts to greatly improve the reporting and tracking of sexual harassment on the Metro system, making Bomb  Detection K-9 units full-time instead of as-needed and the use of more officers to support Metro maintenance efforts to increase cleaning of trains during the pandemic.

In discussions over the item last week in the Metro Board’s Operations, Safety and Customer Experience Committee, many members of the public expressed the opinion that further funding of the police is unnecessary and inappropriate. Many who testified cited ‘Defund the Police’ efforts that gained momentum last year after the killings of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd by police in Louisville and Minneapolis, respectively (among other police killings of Black people in recent years). 

It’s important to note that Metro stands against systemic racism and senseless violence in all forms. We concur with and understand protestors in their call for racial justice and equality and against police brutality.

In response to public concerns about excessive use-of-force by police, Metro has required all of its law enforcement and security contractors to put in place up-to-date policies that met contemporary standards. Other Metro programs to help reinforce the agency’s agenda against systemic racism are already in place and continue to evolve. These efforts are mostly overseen by Metro’s Office of Civil Rights and Inclusion, Metro’s Office of Equity and Race and the Metro Women and Girls Governing Council.

Metro last year also announced the formation of a Public Safety Advisory Committee that will include 15 members of the public as well as Metro staff. Applications were opened last fall and the committee will begin its work later this year. The idea is to recommend ways for Metro to reform the agency’s policing practices and to consider reallocating resources devoted to policing to other forms of community safety. The goal is to ensure any needed reforms are part of Metro’s next policing contract that will be considered by the Metro Board next year.

Metro’s own surveys have often found that safety is a top concern of Metro riders and ex-riders (ridership at Metro and other agencies has been dropping since 2014) — and safety is the reason some people have stopped taking transit. As a result, Metro is trying to meet dual demands — keep the system as safe as possible for customers while also ensuring that policing is ethical and fair for all riders.

The increase of the System Security and Law Enforcement contract will not come at the expense of bus or rail services. However, these enhancements should directly benefit Metro Operations through improved safety and security for bus and rail riders and our employees. 

The Metro Board meeting begins at 10 a.m. on Thursday. You can listen and watch to the live webstream here and the webstream of the meeting will be archived. To offer public comment, please follow these instructions:

Live public comment can only be given by telephone.

The Board Meeting begins at 10:00 AM Pacific Time on January 28, 2021; you may join the call 5 minutes prior to the start of the meeting.

Dial-in: 888-251-2949 and enter

English Access Code: 8231160#

Spanish Access Code: 4544724#

To give public comment on an item, enter #2 (pound two) when that item is taken up by the Board. Please note that the live video feed lags about 30 seconds behind the actual meeting. There is no lag on the public comment dial-in line.

Written Public Comment Instruction:

Written public comments must be received by 5 p.m. the day before the meeting. Email: goingsc@metro.net

10 replies

  1. The board agenda site has the wrong email for submitting comments. If Michele Jackson didn’t have a out of office set I would have never known my comment was going into a black hole. Please have that updated. Either way, Metro shouldn’t give money to a contract they couldn’t financially manage in the beginning. You’re going to keep pumping money into a contract and they’re going to continue spending it and asking for more under the guise of “safety”.

    • So more homeless encampments on the system? Not even joking. Those restrooms outside The perishing square, Vermont/Santa Monica and NoHo have essentially become “homeless ganglands” and make them unusable for regular patrons. How about fixing the homeless problem in the system before just outright suggesting this.

      Lastly, not every train Station in Europe and Asia have toilets, just the busier transfer stations. Those countries are far from having 3rd country rail systems as well.

      Oh and just for reference, nothing is stopping a homeless person from paying $1.75 and then camping on a toilet stall for the rest of the day.

        • Cute remark. Where did I say I denied basic human rights? Re-read what I said.

          Hold mine all day? No, I use it before leaving home and work/establishment, and I used them when I was in Asia and Europe like most other humans, but thanks for proving my point on why building restroom at every station isn’t practical or sensible at this time.

  2. It’s unbelievable that more police funding is considered controversial. Either Metro wants safer trains for passengers or they want less users. Pick one. Those that have multiple of grievances about police brutality or abuse should not politicize a professional police force. The irony is fixing the policing has never really got to the root of the problem. UNIONS protect their members beyond their competency and history of abuse. And Unions are a big constituency of blue states. This is how Unions shield their members. This is how normal people navigate a difficult problem. Either have more crime from fellow citizens or face the corruption of police and state.

    • “Either have more crime from fellow citizens or face the corruption of police and state.” Wow that really does sum up our conundrum we face today doesn’t it. And yeah it’s important that metro does not get too captured by the identity politics narrative here though as there is a real risk of capitulating to the point of having no real enforcement at all for fear of “being a racist institution”. When you have people calling the board meeting saying things like “police are the descendants of slave owners” you know things have gotten heated and I dare say a bit hyperbolic. Violence and theft are real concerns that choice riders (and you would think all riders) have and finding some real way to curb that is crucial to a system that is supposed to serve all walks of life, rather than only be a last resort welfare system for the very poor and disenfranchised, which has basically been the American view of transit for the last half century more or less (and has resulted in a lower quality of service to boot, when compared to systems across the Atlantic and Pacific). But it is a tough needle to thread given the very real abuses of power by bad cops and their departments who “protect their own” via said unions etc.

  3. I’m glad that during my life I got to experience clean, safe, efficient trains many times in Japan. It was truly a joy. I have no expectations of ever experiencing anything similar in Los Angeles. The bureaucrats here don’t understand how to operate trains and aren’t honorable enough to resign.

  4. Haven’t been on a train or bus since last March 13, and I don’t miss it! The number one problem has got to be the vagrants who treat trains in particular as rolling shelters. If the police are going to be handcuffed, so to speak, when dealing with this people, there won’t be an improvement. Word will get out among vagrants that the police are weaklings. But here’s an idea, hire Antifa thugs to police the metro stations!! Think about that.

    • Same here actually, well since March 16th. On that day I took the 720 from SM to K-town and that’s when I told myself I was done. They were forcing their operators to stay on schedule when the roads were wide open, so it still took an hour by bus when by car it would have been 35 min. To hell with their idiotic politics. The only exception was Metrolink when I went to Burbank Airport to go to Seattle for a few days, which to my Surprise, their Link and Sounder trains were WAY much cleaner than Metro. Sound Transit buses? I actually thought I was back in Japan at one point, that’s how clean those buses were.

      Metro is simply a failure, period. We need a state agency to oversee all rail service or give it to Metrolink at least, that way we can finally get San Berdoo and OC extensions without having to rely on county to give money. They just simply want to do what THEY think is right. No one wanted nextgen bus to launch yet because of COVID but they still did it and that has its problems, and now they want to give away free rides, which again, no one actually asked for.

      Stop being politically correct for a change Metro, think about that one as well.