The Metro Board of Directors last Thursday took several actions regarding our contracts with law enforcement agencies and on public safety on our transit system. There was considerable discussion in both public testimony and among Board Members.
The discussion on the webstream posted above begins at the 2 hour, 23:30-minute mark.
Here’s a breakdown of what occurred at the meeting:
•First and foremost, the Metro Board approved the new public safety mission statement and values developed by the agency’s Public Safety Advisory Committee (PSAC) in consultation with Metro staff:
Some important background: in the summer of 2020 in the wake of several unjustified shootings by police across the United States, the Board voted to create the PSAC. The committee’s job is to recommend ways that safety and law enforcement can be improved on the Metro system. The PSAC page on metro.net is here and includes documents detailing their work.
•The Board also voted to authorize up to $75.2 million for the final six months of Metro’s current five-year contracts with the Los Angeles Police Department, Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department and the Long Beach Police Department to patrol Metro’s transit system. The current contracts run through June 30, 2022.
The Board also voted to extend the contract for six months — through Dec. 2022 — with an option for another six months through June 2023. Funding for the extension and option will be determined during development of Metro’s 2023 Fiscal Year budget this winter and spring. The Metro staff report on the contract extensions is here.
As part of the contract extension, the Metro Board also approved changes to the contract to help the agency reach its goal of improving public safety in a way that ensures all riders feel safe.
This was an hours-long discussion at the Board meeting on Thursday with more than two hours of public testimony. Many wide-ranging opinions were expressed. Some members of the public said they wanted police to remain on the Metro system while others said police were doing little to deter crime.
Three dominant threads that ran through Board Member comments on Thursday were this:
–Continuing the law enforcement contracts gives the PSAC time to hone and finish its recommendations for the Metro Board to consider — and that keeping some law enforcement presence on the system is important.
–The current five-year law enforcement contract dating to mid-2017 should have been better managed by Metro to avoid the $110 million in additional expenses that Metro was billed, mostly due to police needed for transit service to special events (i.e. sports games and marches/demonstrations).
–The coming months will be a chance for Metro to try some alternative public safety strategies. Specifically, using police in situations where they are the appropriate responders and trying to use others — homeless and mental health outreach workers, for example — in situations that they might provide a more suitable response.
•Related to that last point, the Board approved a motion to move forward on testing alternative public safety strategies. The motion asks Metro to:
- In February 2022, report on the status of the initiatives funded by Motion 26.2 (March 2021), including projected launch dates, program elements, input received from PSAC, and projected funding needs in FY23.
- During the development of the FY23 budget, ensure a continued minimum commitment of $40 million for the public safety alternatives outlined in Motion 26.2, in addition to rolling over unspent funding from FY22.
- In April 2022, report to the Operations, Safety, and Customer Experience Committee with a recommended public safety budget for FY23, including proposed funding levels for police services and public safety alternatives, with consideration of the Board’s directive to realign resources.
- Consult with PSAC throughout the FY23 budget development process.
WE FURTHER MOVE that the Board direct the Chief Executive Officer to:
Develop a place-based implementation strategy that identifies station locations that are good candidates for piloting a reimagined public safety approach consistent with the new Mission and Values statement, including the deployment of some or all of the public safety alternatives identified in Motion 26.2 and modifying law enforcement deployment at these pilot locations while continuing to ensure fast emergency response times.
As part of that motion, the Board also asked Metro to only contract with law enforcement agencies that require their employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19. Metro’s CEO was asked to return to the Board with information on how that issue might be handled.
If you’re looking for actions taken by the Metro Board on other items on Thursday, please see this Source post.