On March 23, the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (L.A. Metro) Board of Directors approved the hiring of 48 new transit security officers (TSOs) to keep bus operators and riders safe. The board also authorized L.A. Metro to negotiate extensions to the agency’s multi-agency transit law enforcement contracts, a new Bias-Free Policing and Public Safety Analytics policies and a revised Code of Conduct.
The approval comes two weeks after the launch of nearly 300 unarmed Metro Ambassadors aboard L.A. Metro trains and buses.
The Board’s approval of funding for L.A. Metro to hire 48 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. The need for additional TSOs is significant, as there were 158 assaults on bus operators in 2022, an increase from 115 in 2021.
“Bringing additional layers of public safety in-house will give L.A. 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 L.A. Metro Board member.
L.A. Metro staff recommended it was in the best interest of the agency, its employees and customers to extend law enforcement contracts with the Los Angeles Police Department, Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and Long Beach Police Department 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 (RFP) for new law enforcement services.
Two of the four local police agencies that put in bids for the new contracts asked for exceptions to the terms of the contract, causing the L.A. Metro staff to recommend the RFP be canceled and the existing contracts be re-negotiated, modified and extended for up to three years. According to L.A. Metro, the exceptions to the contract would have resulted in inconsistent policing across the system and would have conflicted with the agency’s public safety mission and values.
L.A. Metro staff will return to the board in May on the feasibility of establishing an in-house public safety department.
“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 L.A. Metro second vice chair. “Most of L.A. Metro’s consistent transit riders take the bus, and they deserve a safe and comfortable ride.”
The board’s approval of L.A. Metro’s new Bias-Free Policing and Public Safety Analytics policies are meant to set clear expectations and standards to help L.A. Metro eliminate potential bias in the way the transit system is patrolled. Previously, L.A. Metro found evidence that suggested racial bias might have been a factor in citations given to riders.
“The Board’s approval of these new policies will help ensure L.A. Metro avoids racial profiling and bias when deploying its security and law enforcement services,” said Jacquelyn Dupont-Walker, the L.A. 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.”
The revised L.A. Metro Code of Conduct uses clearer, more user-friendly language and is more consistent with the agency’s public safety mission and values. L.A. Metro removed language that could be construed as targeting specific communities. The code is now easier to understand and clearly describes what conduct L.A. 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 L.A. 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.”