Our Transit Community Public Safety Department (TCPSD) Implementation Plan was just approved by the Metro Board of Directors. Here’s the lowdown:

Earlier this week, I shared information about the history of the transit police at SCRTD and later here at Metro, a program that existed from 1978 – 1997. In that article, I explained why it began, how the department evolved over time, and why it eventually merged with the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) and Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department (LASD). This merger, I argued, had more to do with politics than the in-house police force’s effectiveness.  

In this post, I’ll describe the details of our current proposal to implement a Transit Community Public Safety Department (TCPSD for short) of our own, and why we think it’s important at this critical moment in our history. The topic was just approved by the Metro Board of Directors yesterday. You can read the whole plan here. For those of you who don’t have time to read the entire 137-pager, here’s a recap:   

Why are we doing this? And why now?   

For the past three decades, we have been outsourcing law enforcement to local police departments. Keep in mind, however, that the idea to re-establish an inhouse public safety department isn’t new. In fact, we’ve been discussing it for nearly 30 years.  

Some background:  

In 2002, as our five-year contracts with the LAPD and LASD were coming to an end, the Metro Board of Directors reviewed the program and found that it had proven expensive, complicated to manage, and questionable in effectiveness. To address the service complexities and costs associated with that model, the Board awarded an exclusive contract to the LASD in 2003 and also requested a report on the efficacy of re-establishing an internal police department. Despite finding several good reasons to return to in-house policing, the Board took no action at that time. The security program with the LASD was too new, they thought, to warrant a definitive judgment.  

In 2017, we moved back to a multi-agency model, contracting with LASD, LAPD, and Long Beach Police Department (LBPD). Contracting with three agencies instead of one, board members believed, would help solve staffing issues, enhance the quality of service, and improve overall compliance. And while we greatly appreciate our service contracts with the LASD, LAPD, and LBPD –– especially the officers who have done so much to keep riders and employees safe –– we’re now at an inflection point. Here’s why:  

Lack of oversight: Since 2017, our Office of the Inspector General has been conducting annual assessments of the law enforcement contracts with LASD, LAPD, and LBPD. Over and over, they’ve found that these models simply don’t provide enough visible presence on buses, trains, and other critical infrastructure locations. Moreover, because we can’t monitor and oversee the individuals assigned to our system, we can’t ensure they are fully patrolling it.  

Lack of consistency: Since each of the three agencies we contract with operates independently, we have experienced inconsistent enforcement, disconnected patrol strategies, and data and reporting delays. At times, the policies of these three agencies have clashed with our own public safety mission, which is dedicated to ensuring every trip is more than safe, but also positive and dignified. 

Skyrocketing costs: Contracting with three law enforcement agencies has also been very expensive. The cost of last year’s contract, from July 1, 2023 to June 30, 2024, rose to $194M, a cost increase of 15 percent since the previous year. Needless to say, these increases, with very high overheads, are very difficult to sustain.  

Addressing these issues is more important than ever right now, for two reasons.  

First, our system is growing, with several large rail projects opening over the next few years, such as the D Line Subway Extension Project, the A Line Extension to Pomona, and the LAX/Metro Transit Center Station. If there are gaps in our coverage now, expanding our system will only exacerbate them.  

Second, we’re facing different societal challenges than we have in the past. The crises of homelessness, drug addiction, and untreated mental illness call for more nuanced, holistic responses. More than ever, we need to prioritize building positive relationships with our communities, building trust with riders and employees, offering ‘care-based’ responses reflective of each situation, and providing our riders a continuous visible presence on the system.  

How would an in-house public safety department (TCPSD) solve these issues?  

Local police departments are often trained to react to incidents instead of proactively patrolling the environment. This can be very effective in many situations –– often, emergency calls come from small businesses or private residences –– no one would expect law enforcement to be actively patrolling those environments! However, we don’t believe this model works as well in a transit environment. We want our officers to be visible and actively engaged with our riders, so they can deter crime before it happens. 

Establishing an in-house public safety department with direct oversight over operations and staffing will accomplish our goals in the following ways.  

  • We will be able to train officers ourselves and ensure that they have a deep knowledge of our operations, standards, values, and goals. Concurrently, officers will have a personal stake in Metro’s success.  
  • We will be able to communicate with our officers more quickly, so that we can allocate them the resources they need. This can also mean coordinating their responses with other teams working across our system, such as Transit Security Officers (TSOs), Ambassadors, and homeless outreach personnel.  
  • We will be able to ensure that our policies are implemented consistently across our 1,447 mile service area.  

Policing a transit environment, we believe, is fundamentally unique. You need to be flexible when trains and buses cross cities and jurisdictions. You need to be able to effectively communicate with many different kinds of people sharing public spaces far from their homes. You need the cultural competency to understand how people use our system, so that you can respond to conflicts effectively, or, better yet, deter them before they start.  

How will the TCPSD work?  

We’ve come up with what we call a “zone-based” deployment model. In a nutshell, this means that our service area will become one jurisdiction that we’d subsequently divide into six dedicated, system-specific geographical areas. Officers, assigned to the same zone daily, will be responsible for patrolling their assigned zones, riding buses and trains, conducting foot patrols at stations, and engaging with both riders and Metro staff within their assigned stations. The goal is to increase overall visibility on our system (something that our riders consistently ask for), thereby reducing overall calls for service.  

How is this different from what we’re doing now? Good question! Our current multi-agency model is based on jurisdictional boundaries. Say a crime occurs on an A Line train that is passing through Willowbrook, an unincorporated community that is part of the LASD’s jurisdiction, into the City of Long Beach, which is part of the LBPD’s jurisdiction. Within our current system, a situation like this could create confusion, since it isn’t clear which agency should respond, potentially resulting in no resources being dispatched at all.  

Crossing zones, however, won’t pose the same issues, as all officers would be working in the same jurisdiction. There are added benefits, too. Zone deployments allow us to track and account for officer activity in real-time, increasing accountability, and provide officers the opportunity to build relationships with the riders, businesses, communities, and Metro employees that live and work in that zone. We’re planning to assign at least one crisis co-response team to each zone, too, so we can respond to crisis situations in effective, compassionate ways, reducing the likelihood of escalation or use of force.  

How many officers will there be? What about non-law enforcement personnel?  

We developed four different service models that were presented to the Metro Board of Directors yesterday.

Current Service Model:  

  • Maintains the current levels of 386 law enforcement officers in the field  
  • Maintains current levels of 446 non-law enforcement personnel (includes TSOs, Ambassadors, crisis intervention teams, and homeless outreach)  
  • Cost: $154.4M (v. $194M for the multi-agency contract)     

Enhanced Service Model:  

  • Maintains the current number of 386 law enforcement officers in the field 
  • Increases levels of unarmed, non-law enforcement personnel (TSOs, Ambassadors, homeless outreach, and crisis intervention teams) by 227 to 673 
  • Allocates $5M for public safety infrastructure improvements at transit stations (CCTV cameras, weapons detection, enhanced fare gates, and more)  
  • Cost: $192.6M (v. $194 million for multi-agency contract)  

Decreased Sworn Officers 

  • Reduces the number of officers from the baseline of daily deployed sworn officers by 40 (12%) to 246. Although there are fewer officers overall, increased visibility through zones and foot patrols will still create a stronger sense of security and presence 
  • Increases levels of unarmed, non-law enforcement personnel (think TSOs, Ambassadors, homeless outreach, and crisis intervention teams) by 227 to 673  
  • Allocates $5M for public safety infrastructure improvements at transit stations (think CCTV cameras, weapons detection, enhanced fare gates, and more)  
  • Cost: $181.5M (v. $194M for multi-agency contract)   

Increased Sworn Officers:  

  • Adds 80 (20%) more officers to bring levels to 466. Some would be organized into “flex teams” for special events and others would address hotspots in the system 
  • Increases levels of unarmed, non-law enforcement personnel (think TSOs, Ambassadors, homeless outreach, and crisis intervention teams) by 227 to 673  
  • Allocates $5M for public safety infrastructure improvements at transit stations (think CCTV cameras, weapons detection, enhanced fare gates, and more)  
  • Cost: $214.9M (v. $194 million for multi-agency contract)  

The Board of Directors voted to implement the Enhanced Service Model –– meaning that we will deploy the same number of TCPSD officers as are currently provided by contracted law enforcement while increasing unarmed, non-law enforcement personnel. The challenge we face today, we believe, has less to do with a lack of peace officers but the fact that they aren’t sufficiently visible and engaged on our buses and trains. Under this service model, officers will be riding buses and trains, conducting foot patrols at stations, and interacting with staff and riders. We think that increasing our non-law enforcement personnel is the best way to help vulnerable populations.  

How long will this transition take? 

Short answer: Not overnight. After doing extensive research and crunching the numbers, we’ve come up with a transition plan that would gradually replace existing law enforcement contract services with a new in-house TCPSD over a five-year period. Within that time frame, there will be three phases of transition:  

Phase 1: Transition Planning (year 1)   

  • This phase will begin July 1, 2024. We will establish a transition team, develop standard operating procedures for the department, and hire a Chief of Police and an administrative support team.  

Phase 2: Resource Planning and Recruitment (years 2-5) 

  • During this phase, we will focus on recruiting and training new personnel, leveraging expertise from other transit agencies (six of the ten largest US transit agencies already have in-house transit police departments). We’ll also create an organizational framework in order to fully operationalize the new public safety department within the 5-year time frame.  

Phase 3: Monitoring and Evaluation of TCPSD (ongoing) 

  • Beginning in year 1, we will develop performance monitoring programs in order to establish expectations and benchmarks for TCPSD officers. We will  also establish a civilian oversight committee and a plan to become an accredited law enforcement agency through CALEA by year 5 of operation.  

So here’s the (multi) million dollar question – how much will this all cost?  

The cost of the Enhanced Service Model selected by the board remains slightly lower than the current FY24 budgeted amount for the contracted multi-agency law enforcement services. The FY24 budget for our multi-agency law enforcement contracts is $194M, and the fully operationalized TCPSD by year 6 is projected to cost $192.5M (which also includes supplemental non-law enforcement staff and other enhancements; see above). Initially, the overall budget will increase from FY25 – FY27 due to spending on supplemental contracted enforcement services while we invest in the transition. Actual costs will include direct costs for de-mobilizing contracted law enforcement services, beginning in year two of implementation.  

We know that this was a lot of information, and we’re grateful to you for taking the time to read it. Got a question or a comment? Let us know what you think below!  

 

Categories: Transportation News

13 replies

  1. Metro; “increase security on the system? Nahhh it’s not necessary, we’ll just harass riders at the fare gates, and hire more ambassadors who stand around and watch crimes.”

  2. Please do this ASAP. We can no longer wait for more incidents to happen because LAPD and Sheriffs refuse to actually ride the system. We are tired for Metro trains being used as homeless encampments, please stop with your bleeding heart liberal stance and remove vagrants (who refuse to pay) from the system, so that the 95% of us who actually need to get somewhere can have a clean and safe ride!

  3. Who is it that will develop performance monitoring programs in order to establish expectations and benchmarks for TCPSD officers?

  4. Beware of false prophets. Many late in their careers or retirees will be chasing that job. The new Chief should be harshly scrutinized. Most of those applying were probably part of the old problem in the first place.

  5. This is from a report yesterday’s Regular Board Meeting.

    “During this 12-month period, LAPD reported 609 violent crimes.13,499 individuals were arrested for misdemeanors and felonies. Of those, 81% did not possess a TAP card, 4% possessed a TAP card, and 15% refused to answer.”

    “Based on the data that is available for this analysis, approximately 871, or 96%, of offenders did not have a TAP card”

    It’s obvious what Metro must do: Enforce the fare at the gate. No exceptions unless explicitly authorized by Metro.

    I believe one of the problem of attacks on operators is because their is an expectation for fare jumpers to ride for free and if denied, they question the fairness of the operator which often leads to violence. Until Metro reestablishes that all riders must pay a fare, they will continue to have violence directed toward operators. The policy should be if somebody doesn’t want to get off or becomes violent, an officer needs to be called immediately without exception until word gets around, no more free rides. Metro should offer alternative, parallel transportation, but they need to put the safety of their operators and riders as priority.

    Metro offers so many platitudes about safety except the actual policy that will reduce violence: enforce the fare at the gate, control who is on the platforms, trains and busses.

    Until then, the public is right to view Metro as having no control and their perception of the system is unsafe is justified.

    • Agree. Fare evaders and those without a TAP card need to be prosecuted. Funding also needs to be devoted to hardening infrastructure to keep out fare evaders and vagrants (the “unhoused” as some of the politically correct prefer to say). This is easier with subway and elevated infrastructure than the surface light rail that run along streets. The open access approach of the latter is visually appealing and a nice idea but does not address today’s security needs. Fencing and fare gates need to enclose all those type of stops.

    • “I believe one of the problem of attacks on operators is because their is an expectation for fare jumpers to ride for free and if denied, they question the fairness of the operator which often leads to violence. Until Metro reestablishes that all riders must pay a fare, they will continue to have violence directed toward operators.”

      I blame the people of LA county for this. They voted for officials that encouraged this behavior for more than a decade now. I was in Orange County in May and was amazed and how the patrons of the OCTA bus I was on were scrutinizing 2 people that got through the back door with the intention not to pay. Suffice to say it actually worked. Also glad that at least Metrolink isn’t playing around either with their fare evasion.

  6. A huge problem in the past was where the Transit Police were trained. A Community College can not and will not produce top rated police officers. The LAPD academy or the LACounty Sheriff’s Academy hopefully would reach that goal.

  7. The approved plan seems similar to the neighborhood policing system in which the idea is to have peace officers be a visible, interactive part of the community rather than an occupying force whose task is mainly to enforce discipline. I think having officers, ambassadors and other metro staff united under one employer and actually riding the routes is a step forward in eliminating confusion about what their duties entail and provides riders with a sense of assurance that they are not riding the system alone.
    I’m sure there will be much to be learned from other systems already using these methods that can be adapted to our specific region.
    All of us, staff and riders, have a stake in making the system seem safer and more welcoming for everyone. It’s worth a try.

  8. I hope the mistakes of the past don’t repeat themselves with this police force and that this makes a significant change on Metro. One of the good things I think of having an in house police force is that they will know the system. How it works and build relationships with the people who work in the system and regular passengers like myself. Thats something we don’t seem to have now at all with current security structure on the system.
    PS. If I watch another person have a mental breakdown on my daily bus ride, then I am going to mentally break down myself.

  9. I have to see that they’re gonna bring back some kind of law enforcement back to metro to bye buy public safety for both the public and also for metro employees. I was a former bus operator for metro of a contract is services. But then I think the transit ambassadors really don’t know. I see them standing around a lot of the time. What did they do I mean? I really don’t see them helping anybody. They don’t do much of anything. I’ve already already seen them get on or off the buses. They’re mainly at the rail stations. I think it could be better better. Suitable for money to be just eliminate the trans get rid of the transfer. Ambassadors all together and I said a wasting money on them.Put that money towards this new transit police department that we’re gonna have

Leave your Reply on The Source