LASD Continues Campaign of Intimidation Against Metro Customers

First rule of LASD, don't take pictures of LASD.

Earlier this week, a Streetsblog reader, let’s call him Anthony, sent the email at the bottom of this post and the picture above. To wit, Anthony noticed “at least 8” sheriffs at fare gates checking TAP Cards as well as a k9 unit. When he stopped to take pictures, he was harassed by another member of the LASD, and then threatened with basically false arrest.

Given the events of the past eight days, its possible the Sheriffs were on edge, but the pattern of intimidating (and sometimes attacking) Metro patrons is far too common. Since Metro seems completely unwilling to do anything about this, in fact the transit agency often helps the scofflaw law enforcement agency cover up its misdeeds, its no surprise that a member of the Sheriff’s would have no issues or shame harassing someone for taking pictures.

The only question left, is when is someone on the Metro Board of Directors going to step up and do something about Metro’s Bloody Mouth? The Metro Board of Directors regularly renews their security contract with the Sheriffs with almost no debate, despite complaints from advocates and riders that the law enforcement agency doesn’t respect passengers.

The full text of the email to me is after the jump. I didn’t edit it at all.

These pictures are of at least 8 law enforcement people standing at the exit of a metro train station checking people’s fare or “TAP Card”- although, avoiding fare evaders can be accomplished by locked turnstiles- the LA metro chooses to pay millions to the LA Sheriffdepartment to enforce ticket evasion penalties.

While I was taking these pictures- the tall, heavy set Sheriff’s deputy snuck up behind me and asked “what are you doing” – “I am taking pictures to prove that there is a k9 unit and 8 law enforcement people standing in one train station looking for fare jumpers”, I replied. He told me “you can go now”- I said, I will go when I am done Officer- and he responded- you stay here long enough and I will find something on you.

My question are:

1. Why is the police so powerful? Is this the United States that shines the beacon of liberty over the world?
2. Are the protections of the fourth amendment dead?
3. What is the proper response when a Police Officer saying. You stay here long enough and I will find something on you.
4. How does a free man digest the officer’s remarks and walk away humiliated?

  • This is so frustrating. I get an awful feeling in my stomach each and every time I see the sherrif’s at the turnstiles. Between this intimidation, jay-walking stings in low-income areas, and a back-lash against bike lanes, I can easily get so worked up about the stacked deck against those who do not drive. I don’t necessarily see this as an issue confined just to Los Angeles. I experienced a similar awful incident with NYPD when recently on the subway in New York. I’d like to add these questions to the e-mail?

    1.  Why does this inequity exist throughout the United States?
    2. How can the people affected by this issue rise up to address this inequity?
    3. How can those people fight the power without being intimidated by the seemingly insurmountable task at hand?

    Thank you for posting this story and I hope this is one of many outlets that can expose this targeting of transit riders, pedestrians and cyclists. 

  • Matt

    We need more fare enforcement so people actually pay their fares.  Usually, this is done by fare checkers not the Sheriff, but having some security once in a while in the stations is a good thing, especially when there have been instances of violence on the trains in the last year. 

    The Sheriff shouldn’t have said that, but the person should have moved on after being asked and not been so disrespectful.  Of course, the K-9 unit was not just checking fares, but also providing security and bomb sniffing.  If you go up to a bunch of cops and start taking pictures and don’t ever leave, you are going to upset them.  How would you like it if I just started taking pictures of you and wouldn’t stop.  No doubt you wouldn’t like it at all.  We need more police on the system not less.

  • LEOs are agents of our local, state and federal governments who are entrusted with the discretion to use physical force against members of the public. They have no right to a reasonable expectation of privacy when engaged in performing their duties in a public setting, and part of their standard of professional conduct should be to a) recognize when people are and aren’t legally allowed to photograph, b) expect to be photographed when/where it is legal, and c) not harass people for exercising their rights under the law (and in this case, Metro’s Customer Code of Conduct http://www.metro.net/about_us/ethics/images/codeofconduct_customer.pdf ). It doesn’t matter one bit if the deputies didn’t like being photographed; it was unacceptable for them to harass a person who wasn’t interfering with their work and was taking non-commercial photos in a public area of the station.

  • The situation with Securty is beyond appalling. And yes the Board turns a blind eye for political reasons. Maybe when something totally out of line happens finally we can force a dialogue. And isn’t that pitiful? 

  • davistrain

    Stories like this remind me of the blogger who published a report that only about 5% or so of Metro employees actually “use the sponsor’s product” (i.e. travel by transit).  This is probably also true of Sheriff’s deputies.  There is probably a “mindset” among many members of both groups that transit is for those poor souls who don’t drive their own cars,
    and who will cheat on paying fares to conserve their paltry financial resources.  They may also think that transit passengers are not the sort of people who write letters to the editor and show up at Metro Board meetings.
    As to the question about “Why is the police so powerful?”  Part of it can be traced to the “Post 9/11 thinking” here in the US.  But even before then, I recall thinking that when driving one’s own car became the most common means of local travel, a sure way to have the day ruined would be to see the “flashing red light advancing from the rear”, and the police went from the force for law and order to the assessors of random taxation on motorists in the form of traffic infraction fines.  Admit it, those who use automobiles as well as bikes or buses, seeing a police car behind your vehicle puts you in a state of “high
    alert”, with frequent glances at the speedometer and checking for a safe place to make a lawful right turn and get out of surveillance range.

  • Matt

    Ultimately, police are human like it or not and with humans if you show respect you are much more likely to get it back.  If you act confrontation or disrespectful towards law enforcement or are doing something illegal like littering or not paying your fare which is all too common on our system don’t expect to be treated like a saint.  Unfortunately, our society, especially in the inner city, does not respect public figures like teachers and law enforcement

  • Please explain how taking photographs from what looks to be a distance of at least 30 feet away constitutes a display of disrespect or a confrontational act.

  • mig

     Matt, there is no excuse for the behavior of the sheriff, including, “they didn’t respect me so I didn’t respect them.”

  • I have a friend who has coined a phrase for beinh hassled while photographing transit facilities — tarmaced (as in being thrown to).

    And being an apologist often proceedes from a mindset of “otherness” at a distance in the belief that only somebody else because they brought it on themselves ever is the subject of such treatment. Hoo, boy. I wonder if the excuses will still be so quickly offered when Mr. “well they brought it on themselves” finds himself getting hassled.

  • calwatch

    What people need to do is complain, and complain vigorously every time one feels they are aggrieved. Complaining to elected officials rather than through internal channels, which often serve nothing but to bury it into bureaucracy, is better. So is complaining to higher levels of government, like state and federal authorities. 

  • Anonymous

    Let’s separate the issues here… 

    The reaction of police towards passive, non-interfering picture takers is unacceptable, period.

    However, heavy policing of transit facilities is a good thing. Unfortunately, there had been past instances in which some fare evaders had abused fare checkers, bullying their way out of enforcement. Presence of a sheriff makes a higher threshold for that abuse.

    Moreover, it discourages people who have something to hide or are engaging in unlawful behavior or are evading the law (like parolees travelling during their curfew hours or to/into areas they are not allowed to by terms of their parole).

  • Matt

    Lets say I board an empty midnight train car with a pretty young college girl and proceed to sit right next to her.  After a while, she asks me to move to another seat.  I say no as I have a right to sit where I want after all I paid my fare and am a taxpayer who helped pay for this line and I should be able to sit where I want.  Legally, she has no right to ask me where to sit.  When we exit the train, I proceed to follow her as I can walk wherever I want on a public street. She flags down a police car who starts to question me as to what I am doing and to stop following this woman.  Do you fault the woman or the police in this instance?  Certainly not me as I was well within my legal rights based on the responses to the above.  If you don’t fault the police or the woman, don’t you feel both women and police are too powerful in this country to be able to tell me where I can sit and walk.

  • Erik Griswold

    Why is fare evasion treated like it is such a grave crime and listed under the penal code?  Parking enforcement personnel don’t show up with vicious-breed dogs and wearing paramilitary costumes.  And yet the lost revenue from parking scofflaws is greater.

  • Matt

    Why do you think this was all for fare enforcement?  Are Sherrifs not allowed to be in stations providing patrol and overall security, which is their job?  The photographer said it was for fare enforcement, but he has no idea.  Maybe they were looking for a particular criminal or there was a heightened security call.  Believe me the K-9 was not there for fare inspection.

  • Erik Griswold

    Well, then what is the dog for?  If it is for detecting explosives, why is it sitting away from the gates through which passengers pass?  And why use a German Shepard, a breed with a strong bite that has been used as attack dogs?  Why not use a Black Lab like they do at the Airport, a place that is certainly more at risk for explosives than a Subway station in a Car-addled city like Los Angeles.

    http://losangeles.cbslocal.com/2012/01/10/new-improved-breed-of-bomb-sniffing-dogs-on-patrol-at-lax/

    Look, this crap has been going on for years and no one at Metro seems to get that treating your customers as if they are in jail is going to drive away potential users. And the sad thing is that somebody is going to end up in a worse state than the lady in Pasadena before the Board finally stops it, if even then.

    http://boywithgrenade.org/2012/01/06/la-county-sheriff-tells-photographers-not-to-photograph-them/

  • Again, we’re talking about LEOs who carry firearms and are entrusted with the discretion to use physical force, not some random woman on the subway. The random woman on the subway is way more vulnerable than an armed cop, and isn’t accountable to the public for her actions the way a cop is. And how could taking non-interfering photos in a public area of the station be reasonably interpreted as anywhere near as threatening or harassing as the unnecessary invasion of personal space you describe in your hypothetical example?

  • mike

    god damn pigs

  • Laughterror@yahoo.com

    the next time you are stopped by L.A.S.D. and they request to see your TAP card, when you give them your card and they process your information, its good, fair paid, money on legit card, etc…. before taking your card back, as the officer is holding your card, waiting for you to take it from him. Hesitate for a split second and before taking your card out of his hand say “can I ask you a question?”. because he still has your card/engaged in shaking you down you will have his full attention.. Then ask him “Do you have a TAP card?”. When he says “NO”. Then you can say OPTION#1: “Can I have an L.A.S.D. business card with your name and badge number on it please, I’ll need to show it to my boss when I arrive 5 minutes late for work, Thanks”. or OPTION#2 Take your TAP card from his hand and say “How do you expect to pay a fair to ride the train when the police can come down here without out one to conduct an investigation in which every person is a suspect just to give them a ticket/fine for not paying the fare when violent crime is happening as I speak up above? I hope the money collected goes to fix the elevator or escalator thats not working. I believe broken down in every station”.

  • Wesley Mcbee

    I take the culver city expo line from downtown LA everyday to go to work…..and everyday im harrassed and asked for my tap card. Ima law biding citizen just trying to get to work and im so fucking tired of being bothered by train police. They give tickets for a citizen not having a tap card on the train but wheres there tap card to beon the train as well. If more of us speak up, it’ll change. The metro dont care because they get there money regardless as do the courts fir the tickets.

  • Bryan

    I am putting an end to this illegal and unconstitutional practice by the sheriff and MTA. Listen just tell the officer no when he asked for your tap card. The police can “ask” to see your tap card but they can not make you as this violates your rights which protect you from search and seizure and self incrimination. All they can do legally is ask you to leave if you refuse consent for these searches. If they go beyond that you can sue them. The officer has to have probable cause that you committed a crime to detain you just tell them no and keep walking if they say anything tell them are you arresting me for committing a crime or am I free to go

  • sean

    because figures like Cops and public teachers are Corrupt. people need to use there own brains. stop watching the news and do your own research. the police are being militarized before our very eyes. wake up we have rights, and No-one can take them away. especially the “cops” . They are PUBLIC SERVANTS. they can only evade your rights if you dont know what your rights are.

  • Ernest Brejtfus

    There is no lost revenue with tickets in order to lose something one must possess it first. Not paying tickets is more like a refusing to give a thief your wallet and the thief claiming it lost revenue.

  • Ernest Brejtfus

    Your a moron.

  • Ernest Brejtfus

    Apples to oranges. She is exerciseing her Right to be safe in her person. what the Sheriffs are doing is more like seeing a black man following a white woman and then stopping him and questioning him when no complaint has been made

  • Joe Linton

    I think you mean “You’re” not “Your”

  • john doe

    That is not the worst of it, what irritates me the most is when the pat them down, and or put them in hand cuff, going thru personal belongings, (bags, backpack eand empting out pockets and then let them go.. they have no right to detain you, even if you do not have a tap card…, the arrgument can be made , i did not ride the train, i was just enjoying the view and eating my lunch..

  • Freebiegrabber

    Here’s the exact wording of the law (actually an ordinance; violations are punishable as an infraction): “Patrons shall show proof of payment of fare upon request by a Metro representative. Evading payment of a Metro fare is prohibited. Fare evasion includes …Refusing to show proof of valid, validated, unexpired fare media upon request by a Metro representative.”

    Problems start when law enforcement (or any other “Metro representatives”) selectively pick and choose who they ask for “proof of payment of fare,” especially if they do it in a manner that disparately impacts a “protected class” (i.e., discrimination).

  • Kevin Buehler

    I’m a 51 year old, male, Caucasian Metro rider. This is my most recent experience on the Metro Red Line subway just this evening at 7:25pm.

    After taking the Metro Orange Line bus from the Reseda station, I was asked on the bus, to produce my TAP card (proof of fare). I complied with the deputy Sheriff. At the North Hollywood Red Line subway, I was asked by Metro (Police) Transit officers to produce my TAP card (once again, for proof of fare), prior to boarding the subway train.

    Again (for a THIRD time in the span of an hour), I was asked by a female, Hispanic, Metro Fare Inspector to produce my TAP card. I noticed her male, Hispanic, Fare Inspector, allow a male, African American passenger refuse to produce a TAP card and evade proof of payment of his fare.

    I voiced a complaint to the female, Hispanic, Fare Inspector, that I felt discriminated against that I am being harassed by Metro staff to produce my TAP card too many times and that her partner allowed a guy to evade his fare. I stated this was akin to the beginning of the Nazi harassment of the Jewish people.

    Her male, Hispanic, Fare Inspector (Dan Pickering) intervened in my discussion with her demanding I show my TAP card. I informed Fare Inspector Pickering I already had produced it to his partner. He continued to attempt to harass and intimidate me for exercising my right to free speech by voicing a complaint with his partner.

    I was told by Fare Inspector Pickering if I don’t like the way I’m being treated, don’t ride Metro! I asked him for his name (which he provided in a gloating and intimidating manner) and informed him I’m going to file a written complaint against him. He stood in front of and over me as I was seated, in a threatening and hostile manner.

    His partner informed him I had already produced my TAP card. He continued on a verbal tirade against me saying I should get off the train, or that he’ll call a supervisor to “talk with me”. I continued to explain to Fare Inspector Pickering I’m on my way home and will file the appropriate complaint at my convenience, not at his.

    He continued to berate and disparage me in a manner to provoke / invite violent behavior. I demanded that he get out of my face and STOP talking to me as the proof of fare payment had already been satisfied. As the train approached the next station his female partner told him they’re getting off. He then stated exiting the train that I must be a racist.

    This fascist treatment of law-abiding passengers by Metro employees is intolerable and not acceptable. A complaint tomorrow against Fare Inspector Pickering is forthcoming tomorrow morning.

  • Jacques Carr

    Many of them are sick in the head! They will have a problem soon though! A sicko, fat MTA Ticket Agent is a stalker! She is the fattest most unqualified Ticket Agent I have ever seen. Thanks for your post. I enjoyed it.

  • Jacques Carr

    Law Enforcement Officers are out of line telling citizens with cameras to stop taking pictures at crime scenes. Telling rude, obnoxious, ignorant instigators, loud mouthed disorderly provokers and street people who have no manners to stop it is admissible in a court of law.