At the time, they were moving to lower drinking in a shelter from a misdemeanor to an infraction. "It sort of raised some eyebrows and people were saying if we do that, then we don’t have the ability to necessarily remove people and take them out of that situation. But if we had something like a suspension policy that was tied to a criminal behavior, then we could remove them from that situation and have an immediate impact on the behavior. The whole purpose was to ensure that we had some kind of tool to keep bus drivers and bus passengers, the riding public, safe; that was the bottom line to give us the tools to keep people safe,” explains Mulligan.
If a King County Metro Police officer finds someone who is committing a violation of the code of conduct or a state law related to riding transit, they charge the individual with the crime while also issuing a suspension notice. Mulligan says that suspension notices have varying degrees of time that an individual is suspended from the coaches based on the severity of the violation — the greater the violation, the greater the suspension.
“We issue them that notice, they get due process and come to a hearing and appeal it if they choose to. We have rider contracts where if they have to ride the bus even though they behaved badly that we can put some boundaries around how they ride and when they ride. Then if we find them in violation of either of those, either the suspension notice itself or rider contract, then we can arrest them for trespassing,” Mulligan explains.
Mulligan says they don’t burden the operators with enforcement of the suspension policy so they can focus on their job responsibilities. “It's the position of the transit agency that the operators really should just be driving and not be the lookout for the police,” she says.
“So if we run across them, which we do, we frequently run across people who are suspended who are riding coaches, we feel like that’s our responsibility and feel like we should let the bus drivers focus on what their job is. That keeps them out of trouble as well; sometimes we have assaults attached to things like that when metro employees are pointing out people who are problem people. We do the best we can to separate them; it’s not a fail-proof system.”