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Rail News Home Security

November 2020

Rail News: Security

Transit agencies answer call for police reforms

LA Metro established a Transit Public Safety Advisory Committee to consult law enforcement experts and community members on accountable policing efforts.
Photo – LA Metro


By Vesna Brajkovic, Associate Editor

The deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, among others, at the hands of police earlier this year prompted nationwide protests against police brutality and racial inequalities. In addition, many people demanded police reforms across the nation.

Some protests have called for the divestment or defunding of police departments across the county, and for the redirection of those funds into community-based programs that address mental health, housing and education, the New York Times reported.

Now as a result, some U.S. transit-rail agencies are trying to make policing changes. Several have committed to restructuring their transit police forces, reallocating police funds to new programs or exploring community-based approaches to policing.

The following are a few examples of what some agencies currently are doing to reform, defund or re-evaluate policies in their police departments:

  • The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (LA Metro) this month plans to establish an advisory committee to re-envision transit safety and explore community-based policing approaches. Through the new 15-member Transit Public Safety Advisory Committee, LA Metro will consult with key law enforcement experts and community members as it seeks a more accountable policing culture, according to a press release.
  • The Tri-County Metropolitan Transportation District of Oregon (TriMet) in July reduced its transit police force and redirected $1.8 million in available funding to community-based public safety approaches. This fiscal year, TriMet committed to establishing a panel of experts to advise the agency on national best practices for transit security, equity and community engagement in safety and security. The agency also committed to piloting a new non-police response resource, such as mobile crisis intervention teams for mental and behavioral health issues of community members the agency engages with. While TriMet will retain transit police officers on its system, the agency has reduced its number of police officers by six positions.
  • The New Jersey Transit Police Department last month announced plans to expand its community outreach unit from two to five officers. The unit is a community-based policing approach that helps bridge the gap between law enforcement and social services to improve the health and well-being of those in need who frequent mass transit facilities, NJ Transit officials said in a press release.
  • Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA) General Manager and Chief Executive Officer Jeffery Parker in June announced that the MARTA Police Department in Atlanta would be grounded in community-oriented policing approaches. Specifically, the agency is stressing that the use of excessive force by MARTA police would not be tolerated and all officers would receive annual training in cultural competency and implicit bias, Parker said in a published statement to riders and stakeholders.
  • Bay Area Rapid Transit’s (BART) board in San Francisco last month voted to formalize and continue its BART police ambassador program, which deploys unarmed uniformed personnel to provide security on its rail system and perform a variety of police services. The program was launched as a pilot in February. The ambassadors are trained to respond to riders’ questions, complaints or requests for service. The ambassadors observe and report, and call a police officer when enforcement is needed. All ambassadors received deescalation and anti-bias training prior to the program’s launch.BART General Manager Bob Powers also has pledged $2 million in operating funds originally identified for pandemic enforcement using sworn officers and fare inspectors to be re-allocated to increasing the number of unarmed civilian employees providing assistance in the system and expanded training.

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