Two weeks after the official launch of nearly 300 unarmed Metro Ambassadors aboard trains and buses, the Metro Board of Directors last Thursday approved the hiring of 48 new Transit Security Officers to keep bus operators and riders safe.
The Board also authorized the agency to re-negotiate and potentially extend its contracts with its law enforcement partners for up to three years to ensure a more visual presence on the system while staff evaluates the feasibility of creating its own in-house public safety department.
The Board’s actions advance the implementation of the agency’s public safety plan, which calls for a layered, human-centered approach that makes the system be – and feel – more safe. In addition to the new Metro personnel, Metro is working with the city and the county to add homeless outreach, drug addiction and crisis intervention teams, and is improving its use of security cameras and lighting and more frequent cleaning of stations and vehicles.
The Board also approved new Bias-Free Policing and Public Analytics policies and a revised Customer Code of Conduct to ensure consistency with the public safety mission and values that were adopted by the board in 2021. The mission and values statements specify that all transit riders are entitled to a safe, dignified and human experience on Metro.
“The Metro System is certainly not immune from the broader societal challenges we see throughout our county, but we are steadfast in our commitment to taking all steps necessary to promote a safe and pleasant transit experience for every one of our riders,” said Glendale City Council Member and Metro Board Chair Ara J. Najarian. “Safety is our No. 1 priority. Our Board’s actions today are a testament to the bold and strategic actions we are now taking to deliver a safe transit system.”
Law Enforcement Contract Extensions
The Board authorized Metro to negotiate extensions to the agency’s multi-agency transit law enforcement contracts with the Los Angeles Police Department, Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and Long Beach Police Department.
Metro staff recommended that it was in the best interest of the agency, its employees and customers to extend law enforcement contracts with modified scopes of work that are consistent with the Board-approved public safety mission and values, rather than accept the responses it received to its Request for Proposals for new law enforcement services.
Four local police agencies bid on the new contract, but two of the four proposers asked for exceptions to the terms of the contract that would have resulted in inconsistent policing across the system and would have conflicted with the agency’s public safety mission and values. Metro staff recommended canceling the RFP and instead re-negotiating and extending the modified contracts for up to three years. Metro staff will return to the Board in May on the feasibility of establishing an in-house public safety department.
“Bringing additional layers of public safety in-house will give Metro a greater ability to reliably deploy personnel with the training and capabilities to respond to the variety of incidents that occur on our transit system,” said Hilda L. Solis, an L.A. County Supervisor and Metro Board Member. “I look forward to receiving a Metro staff’s report on the feasibility of a public safety department to inform our continuing efforts to deliver an enhanced customer experience and greater accountability for Metro transit riders.”
Additional Transit Security Officers
The Board’s approval of funding for Metro to hire 48 additional Metro Transit Security Officers, or TSOs, will create a Permanent Bus Riding Team that will be deployed to specific lines with high frequencies of public safety issues — with a primary objective of deterring bus operator assaults and Code of Conduct violations. TSOs are part of Metro’s own security team. The need for additional TSOs is significant, as there were 158 assaults on bus operators in 2022, an increase from 115 in 2021.
“It is important that we’re finally going to have a team of transit security officers who are dedicated to our buses and are actually riding them alongside our passengers,” said Janice Hahn, an L.A. County Supervisor and Metro Second Vice Chair. “Most of Metro’s consistent transit riders take the bus and they deserve a safe and comfortable ride.”
Bias-Free Policing and Public Safety Data Analytics Policies
The Board also approved Metro’s new Bias-Free Policing and Public Safety Analytics policies. These policies are meant to set clear expectations and standards to help Metro eliminate potential bias in the way the transit 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 to eliminate any form of bias against its riders.
“I authored a motion last year that called for Metro to pursue its Bias-Free Policing and Public Safety Data Analytics policies because we must eradicate acting on harmful stereotypes from our system,” said Holly J. Mitchell, an L.A. County Supervisor and Metro Board Member. “I’m pleased that both policies will be prerequisites in our contract negotiations with law enforcement moving forward.”
“The Board’s approval of these new policies will help ensure that Metro avoids racial profiling and bias when deploying its security and law enforcement services,” said Jacquelyn Dupont-Walker, the Metro Board’s First Vice Chair. “These policies establish clear expectations and standards for fair and unbiased policing and reinforce the importance of treating all individuals with respect and dignity.”
Revised Code of Conduct
Lastly, the Board approved 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.
Metro removed language that could be construed as targeting specific communities. The code is now easier to understand and clearly describes what conduct Metro expects from customers. The agency also removed items that are already fully covered under the existing penal code.
“All of these initiatives build upon work we have been doing over the last year to put our public safety plan into action,” said Metro CEO Stephanie Wiggins. “This plan utilizes proactive response, strategic enforcement and equitable rule compliance, and is key to maintaining public safety for our customers. We know we have a lot of work to do, but we are clearly making progress in the right direction.”
For more information, please visit metro.net/safety.