Although most riders use Metro every day without incident, we know, and have heard from you, that there are fears and concerns we need to address. As the LA Times and others have reported, our region is suffering from an opioid addiction crisis – and the despondency and deaths it causes. Those crises are making it much more difficult for us to do our job: to get people where they need to go comfortably and safely.
Our position is simple and clear: there should be no open use of illegal drugs on the system. And there should be absolutely no tolerance for assaults on riders, our operators, or any other crimes on our system.
Our riders deserve better.
We are tackling these and other problems at different levels. This includes an enforcement campaign that started in February to reduce illegal drug use on our system. Since it began, the LAPD and LASD have made 205 drug-related arrests and reported incidents of illegal drug use have declined.
No complex societal issue can be solved overnight. But it’s important for us to tell you about the steps we’re taking today, and as we roll out new programs, we’ll let you know. Below is part of what we’re doing.
Public Safety Proposals
This month, Metro’s Board of Directors will consider a package of four important items that are crucial to our ongoing work to improve public safety on our system for everyone.
The first two items are Bias-Free Policing and Public Safety Analytics policies and a revision to the Customer Code of Conduct – they serve as a foundation for the kind of fair and equitable policing we want on our system.
The other two items advance our approach to public safety, which we have been in the process of evolving over the last two years. First, we recommend hiring 48 additional Metro Transit Security Officers (TSOs) dedicated to keeping bus operators and riders safe. Metro staff also recommends extending our current law enforcement contracts as we explore an in-house police department model.
Before we dive into the details of the four items going to the Board, we’d like to offer some broader context. Over the last two years, we have been working on a number of public safety improvements. We created a Public Safety Advisory Committee made up of riders, community members and experts who give Metro input on ways to improve public safety on the system. The second cohort of that committee was seated last month and will continue that important work.
That The PSAC helped develop our Public Safety Mission and Values Statements that were adopted by the Board in December 2021 and state that all riders are entitled to a safe, dignified and human experience on Metro.
With that guiding vision, we’re now putting the particulars of our public safety plan in place with a focus on improving security, customer care and cleanliness. This plan includes our Metro Ambassador pilot, increased enforcement of the Code of Conduct and prohibition of illegal drug use on buses and trains, and the expansion of our homeless outreach teams who connect individuals to needed services. We also are piloting intervention tactics to improve conditions at the Westlake/MacArthur Park Station that include improved lighting and cameras and adding cleaning and security staff. If successful, this will inform approaches to other stations.
Proposals Going to the Board
These four public safety proposals will be discussed at Board committees this week before going to the full Board at its meeting on Thursday, March 23, at 10 a.m. Below is a summary of each item along with links to Metro staff reports or other supporting materials:
Bias-Free Policing and Public Safety Data Analytics policies
The Board will consider approving new Bias-Free Policing and Public Safety Data Analytics policies. The Board approved a motion last year asking Metro to develop both policies for their review.
These policies are meant to set clear expectations and standards to help us eliminate potential bias in the way our system is patrolled. Previously, Metro found evidence that suggested racial bias might have been a factor in citations given to riders. Metro’s goal is clear – to eliminate any form of bias against our riders.
The Bias-Free Policing policy seeks to accomplish this goal through increased training and robust tracking of Metro’s progress to reduce the number of complaints filed against our safety and security staff team and partners. We also want to lower the disproportionate number of citations issued to members of marginalized communities.
The Public Safety Data Analytics policy aims to remove bias from public safety data and how it is used to deploy resources. We want to ensure our data is high-quality and is collected in a bias-free way.
Through the adoption of these policies, Metro will build an online dashboard with public safety statistics and outcomes to help us be accountable and transparent to the public.
Both policies were developed with input from PSAC, academic institutions, internal departments and external stakeholders to ensure they addressed concerns regarding policing across the system.
The Metro staff report on this item — which includes both new policies — is here. The Board Committee will consider the item in the Operations, Safety and Customer Experience Committee on Thursday at 12:30 p.m. The livestream link will be here when the meeting begins.
Revised Code of Conduct
The Board will also consider approving a revised Metro Code of Conduct that uses clearer, more user-friendly language and is more consistent with the agency’s Public Safety Mission and Values statements.
The three big changes to the Code are:
- Removing any language that could be construed as targeting specific communities.
- Making the language more customer friendly, which means it’s easier to understand and clearly describes what conduct we expect.
- Removing any items that are already fully covered under the existing Penal Code.
We may even change the name from Code of Conduct to something more rider friendly. Here’s an example of the draft Code:
The staff report — which includes the existing Code of Conduct and proposed revision — is here. The item will be considered in the Board’s Operations, Safety and Customer Experience Committee on Thursday at 12:30 p.m. The livestream link will be here when the meeting begins.
Additional Metro Transit Security Officers
The Board will consider approving funding for Metro to hire 48 additional Metro Transit Security Officers (TSOs) to ride and patrol our bus system and to help improve safety for bus riders and bus operators.
The TSOs are part of Metro’s own security team. They are charged with enforcing our Code of Conduct. We currently have 213 TSOs on staff.
The 48 new TSOs will be dedicated to our bus system, which has 119 routes that currently carry more than 75 percent of our riders. There were 158 assaults on our bus operators in 2022 — an increase from 115 in 2021. The assaults are a serious safety risk for our employees and riders.
The Metro staff report on this item is here. The item will be heard in the Operations, Safety and Customer Experience Committee on Thursday at 12:30 p.m. The livestream link will be here when the meeting begins.
Law Enforcement Contracts
The Board also will consider a staff recommendation to continue Metro’s existing law enforcement contracts with the Los Angeles Police Department, Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department and the Long Beach Police Department for up to three more years while Metro explores and tests new approaches to public safety that are consistent with our Public Safety Mission and Values Statement.
Metro’s current law enforcement contract went into effect in mid-2017 for five years and was extended through June 2023 to give the agency time to issue a procurement for a new law enforcement contract. Four local police agencies bid on the new contract, but two of the four proposers asked for exceptions to the terms of the contract. Those exceptions, we believe, would result in inconsistent policing across the system and conflicted with our Public Safety Mission and Values statements. Most notably, we asked for more transparency from our partners and to have a greater say in how, when and where officers are deployed on the system.
Ultimately, Metro staff believes it is in the best interest of Metro, our employees and our customers to modify the existing contracts to require compliance with the Bias-Free Policing and Public Safety Analytics policies and extend the contracts annually for up to three additional years, rather than award new contracts. We would supplement this law enforcement presence with a variety of other interventions (like transit security officers and dedicated bus riding teams) so that we can deploy the right personnel to the right issue.
As part of this item, Metro staff are also recommending that Metro study the possibility of creating its own police force. Eight of the 10 largest transit agencies in the United States have their own police departments and we believe our riders would be better served under this model. Metro had its own police force in its early days before choosing to contract with law enforcement agencies.
The Metro staff report on this item is here. The item will be heard in the Board’s Executive Management Committee on Thursday at 9 a.m. (livestream link here) and in the Operations, Safety and Customer Experience Committee on Thursday at 12:30 p.m. (livestream link here).
Again, all four board reports build on Metro’s work over the last year to put our new public safety plan into action. In contrast to Metro’s previous approach, this plan uses proactive response, strategic enforcement and equitable rule compliance. It is data-driven and flexible, recognizes that collaboration is key to maintaining public safety (back to the three pillars of security, customer care and cleanliness), and is transparent. We know we have a lot of work to do. But this is progress.
So, let’s tackle some questions:
Why are you spending any money on law enforcement?
Unfortunately, crime does occasionally occur on our system. Transit doesn’t operate in a bubble, and we need to have law enforcement to help prevent crime and respond to it.
Metro’s law enforcement partners, complemented by other staff such as the Metro Ambassadors — are an important part of ensuring that Metro riders and employees feel safe and are safe on the system. Additionally, law enforcement works with our Emergency Operations Center by sharing intelligence and providing support to our anti-terrorism work. We cannot ignore the fact that terrorism is a very real concern in the modern world.
Law enforcement also collaborates with our Inspector General to obtain exclusion orders for repeat offenders, and supports special initiatives to address issues (e.g., drug use enforcement, MacArthur Park station improvements, trespassing in station ancillary areas) that are detrimental to our service and pose safety threats to riders and employees. It’s important to note that 68 percent of riders surveyed in 2021 told us they wanted to see more armed security and law enforcement staff on the system.
Is this your way of defunding the police?
Absolutely not. We know law enforcement has an important role to play in ensuring public safety on the Metro system.
Why are you spending any money at all on Metro Ambassadors?
That same survey found that 76 percent of Metro riders also wanted to see an unarmed presence on the Metro system. Most people, according to our surveys, wanted a team approach with security officers, law enforcement AND un-armed staff (such as the Metro Ambassadors) on the Metro system.
We agree. Our Public Safety Plan calls for the use of all three. The Metro Ambassadors support our riders and their presence makes many feel safer. They connect riders to resources they might need, and importantly they report issues they see. Their reporting helps Metro send the right response to address an issue – be it crisis intervention teams, security, law enforcement or cleaning crews.
Why do you think your own police force would be better than working with law enforcement?
We haven’t yet made that determination. But what we do know is the current approach isn’t working well enough.
Should the Board approve the staff recommendation, we will conduct a feasibility study, which we will bring back to the Board in April. We are committed to finding a solution that will keep our employees and riders safe and stay true to our Public Safety Mission and Values Statements. Having our own police force may allow us to deploy our resources more quickly based upon customer and employee comments and reports.
Categories: Policy & Funding, Projects
The revised Code of Conduct seems to be completely striking the section prohibiting riders with “an unavoidable grossly repulsive odor”. It is ABSURD that the Board would consider removing this language. Anyone who actually rides the system regularly (which the Board members clearly don’t) understands what it’s like to be on a bus or train with someone so extremely smelly that everyone around them starts covering their nose, gagging, and looking for the next stop to get off.
Metro, can you clarify whether this type of rider will still be disallowed from the system under other sections of the Code of Conduct, or perhaps other laws? I can’t imagine that the proposed changes to the Code would remove the discretion of bus operators, etc. to remove these types of riders from Metro vehicles. Thanks!
What are the requirements to become an Ambassador?
The Metro Ambassadors are hired by two contractors, RMI International and Strive-Well Being. Please visit their websites for more details about hiring and the requirements. Good luck!
Editor, The Source
A separate metro police force sounds like the next best step which might help the political situation. The officers that I rarely see around metro are not riding the trains and are hanging out on platforms checking their phones. If there is a disturbance they don’t engage and just ignore it. My sense is that this is an intentional work stoppage for political reasons. Working folks and students need safe, clean and reliable public transportation. Don’t waste this opportunity for a wake up call and action. I hope that you do what you say you will and that this is not performative for appearances only.
One way to significantly reduce the problem (but is not mentioned in the article) is FARE ENFORCEMENT. Stop the problem before it gets into the system.
Starting your own police department isn’t cheap. Is there enough in operating revenue to support this costly endeavor without asking county taxpayers for additional funds?
I saw a similar discussion on Nextdoor. A lot of people did not want LA Metro to connect to Torrance in regards to the C Line extension to Torrance. People are torn whether to build the extension on the existing ROW (which would connect riders to the Redondo Beach Transit Center) or build it along Hawthorne Bl (which would open much later at an expensive price than with the ROW option). In this same discussion, people complain about the drug usage on our trains and rails, as well as fare evasion. I told one of the bus drivers for Beach Citites Transit that a lot of people evade fares at the Redondo Beach C Green Line station on Marine Av and Redondo Beach Av. They open the “Emergency Exit” door from the inside and enter the train platform instead of paying for the bus ride like civilized humans. While going to the Planet Fitness in Hawthorne, I had to deal with someone actually smoking a cigarette on the train. Redondo Beach/Marine to Hawthorne/Lennox. We all know what differentiates man from monster. Courtesy.
I don’t know which is worse: The Redondo Beach C (Green) Line station or the South Bay Galleria. I already discussed the former since I had to ride from Redondo Beach to Hawthorne/Lennox in the same train as someone who smoked. In the latter, we already understand my story about the beer can episode on my way home from work at Smashburger (the one by Redondo High) last summer. I told everyone on Nextdoor about what happened on my bus ride home. A man threw a beer can in the bus at Artesia/Kingsdale (near the then-current bus station). The bus driver chased that man across the mall parking lot, threw his bike over the fence, and resumed his route to the C Line station (in which my home is near Lincoln Elementary). People tell me to avoid the Galleria as it is not a safe place. I did not know that this was my last night with my learner’s permit before I became a licensed driver the following morning. Now, I need to save enough cash to get my own car and avoid such delinquent behavior (fare evasion, smoking INSIDE buses and trains) on public transit.
Weeks later, Beach Cities Transit was having a Service Study on how they can improve their services. When one of the representatives brought up Polliwog Park (Manhattan Beach Middle School) and the Redondo Beach Performing Arts Center (Aviation Park), I suggested that Beach Cities Transit revives Metro’s former Line 126 (which ran from Manhattan Beach to the Hawthorne/Lennox station until December 2020 as part of the NextGen Plan). I told officials about the beer can episode at the Galleria in June 2022. BCT should revive the former Line 126 to make traveling to El Camino College a safer and easier trip for many Manhattan Beach, Lincoln (North Redondo), Kornblum and York (Hawthorne), and Lennox residents.
Another reason why public transit is unsafe was because I almost got attacked on the 344 Southbound to Rancho Palos Verdes. I unintentionally upset an African American male, and was almost attacked by him. I try to tell the bus driver about what that man was trying to do to me, but he did not care. My sister (a woman) decides that public transit is forgettable.
I’m reminded of riding DART in Dallas. Every time I’ve ever taken their light rail (a handful of times), I’ve had a police officer walking the trains asking for proof of payment. Of all the times I’ve ever taken transit in California (where i live and work, and ride semi-regularly), I’ve twice been asked for proof of payment and they were both on buses.
It’s amazing the lengths that the drum circle at One Gateway will go through to avoid any mention of the fact that this is a self-inflicted problem originating in the decision to stop enforcing fares. The (remaining) passengers say it, the (remaining) operators say it, and the public says it at every meeting. I don’t know what’s more terrifying – that the people in charge ignore, avoid, and lie to us that fare enforcement isn’t the issue (as in the above Metro Statement) or that some of the people in charge actually believe this isn’t the issue.
I left a version of this message elsewhere yesterday after reading the LA Times and before this current post was up, so I will add this after re-reading the LA Times article about the rampant lawlessness that has driven all but those that MUST use Metro. I have to say that Monty Python couldn’t make this stuff up. Anyway what I previously wrote:
I would love to see Metro discuss their budget plan in light of today’s LA Times article on the rampant lawlessness on the Metro system.
Your so called “Ambassadors” aren’t contributing to making the system safer. Only law enforcement can do that.
This is as it was reported on the LA Times:
“As (Metro CEO) Wiggins talked to reporters, a man in the next car was packing marijuana into a cigar wrapper. The ambassadors didn’t discourage the man as he threw tobacco on the floor to make room for the weed.
Melissa Saenz, one of several newly minted ambassadors on the train, leaned over to tell a reporter that in instances such as this she would “report it” to law enforcement. “We are here to make a change.”
LOL LOL LOL LOL
Metro is a safe place and doesn’t need police is a farce or a bad joke. A gift to right wingers in our polarized country.
This is just the tip of the rotten iceberg that is the current Metro system in LA
The best move metro can make it forming its own transit police instead of depending on policing contracts
Well this is a good start. Finally, seems all the bad press and depressed ridership due to safety concerns is making an impact on Metro leadership. I know friends who used to ride the system, but have since stopped due to how dirty and unsafe it feels. I am glad to see Metro is not divesting from actual law enforcement. We need better policing, not total elimination of the police. When criminals feel they can get away with openly doing drugs and vandalizing Metro trains and property, you know they don’t fear any repercussions. And that’s what is currently needed in our system: deterrence. If you don’t enforce your own Code of Conduct, how to you expect the criminals to stop causing trouble? You simply can’t just have an ambassador ask nicely for them to stop. You need someone with actual authority to enforce the rules. Thank you Metro for this step in the right direction!
This was the first time I felt ok reading the LA Times comments section. https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2023-03-14/horror-the-deadly-use-of-drugs-on-metro-trains
Hearing other riders experiences on the trains that sound exactly like mine. You can feel pretty alone having to deal with to incredible disaster the Metro is now. Thankfully I have options when getting around. There are so many who dont being made to suffer this situation.
I saw that story on Nextdoor. I have heard a lot of people complain about passengers smoking INSIDE the buses and trains. I had an issue like that on the C Line ride from the Redondo Beach station ot the Hawthorne/Lennox station en route to Planet Fitness in Hawthorne (on Hawthorne Bl and El Segundo Bl). I have also dealt with people evading fares at the C Line station. I told this to one of the (female) bus drivers who works for Beach Cities Transit. When I told everyone on Nextdoor about the episode where a man threw a beer can inside the bus that was taking me home from Smashburger last summer, people tell me to avoid the South Bay Galleria at all costs as it is unsafe.
Decide for yourself: Which is unsafe? The Redondo Beach C (Green) Line station? The South Bay Galleria? Both?
LA in general is bad, and as a result people are moving out. Even the middle class that can still afford the luxury of avoiding all these issue are leaving, and I’m doing my best to do the same as well.
Same, found a job closer to home that will require taking the Red Line every day for the first few weeks, after which I can start carpooling which best believe is an option I’ll begin to utilize, or via Metrolink even if it means double the commute time, in addition to driving on weekends.
I just hope I can make it the first few weeks without losing it
With crime up substantially on Metro rail and bus something needs to be done there needs to be security on each and every bus and on the trains and in the stations assaults are up way up and some operators have been murdered or shot at enough is enough people are leaving Metro in droves with only about maybe close to 700,000 patrons A Day writing Metro and you need used to be 1.2 million Metro needs to do something to improve safety very quickly or people going to leave Metro and drive the cars and put it on clog up the highway and freeways around here in LA something awesome needs to be done with this drug abuse that’s been going on for a long time I strongly urge the board to suspend Metro bus service and rail service at midnight. So that the homeless can’t be on our buses and that the operators feel safe but again I believe that service needs to end at midnight and not go 24/7 anymore until the safety issue is addressed and resolved thank you
Yes that needs to be law enforcement on the trains and buses if drug uses that widespread and assaulting crime in general are way up there needs to be law enforcement or some type of security apparatus on our buses and trains all day all night 24/7 you know a lot of drivers and operators are not feeling safe they’re leaving in droves going to other positions other parts of Metro etc safety is a if safety is the number one priority for Metro something has got to be done with this drug use and crime on these buses one recommendation that I have is that service needs to stop at midnight. On trains and buses because the rail shuts down at midnight all bus service should stop and we’ll service should stop at midnight everyday all day thank you