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Metro Shuffles the Deck on Security

12:18 PM PDT on August 7, 2009

Earlier this month, Metro CEO Art Leahy fired two senior executives in charge of security, and handed oversight of all security operations over to the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Office. Details of the firing, slipped to me from anonymous sources at Metro HQ, have started to make the rounds via email and seem unusually harsh for the jovial persona presented by Metro and Leahy in particular:

Metro's new CEO, Art Leahy, terminated the Deputy Executive Officer in charge of System Safety & Security, Jack Eckles and the the Metro's Security Director, Dan Cowden. Eckles and Cowden arrived at their offices to find themselves locked out. They were escorted from the building by the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department. They were not allowed to pack up their offices...

... The Los Angeles Sheriff's Department is now in charge of Metro Security and reports directly to Paul Taylor, Deputy CEO of the Metro.

For those of you unfamiliar with firing practices, "escorted from the building by the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department" is the opposite of getting a gold watch.

Metro's private in-house security used to report to Eckles and Cowden, but following a series of high and low-profile complaints against the contractors; Metro decided to hand over control of all security to the Sheriff's office. Previously the Sheriff's did have control over security of the buses, trains and train stations.

The problems with Metro Security doesn't mean that the Sheriff's are somehow without fault.  At times they seem overzealous in detaining people for the "crime" of taking pictures while not seeming interested in doing anything about unsafe driving by Metro bus drivers.  In fact, one of the early reasons that Board Members used to try and persuade the public that fare gates are a good idea for Metro Rail was that they could cut back on the need for Sheriffs.

But what does this mean for your average commuter? Will they see any changes to security practices or does this mean any changes to the addition of turnstiles, random bag searches or anything else? Metro spokesperson Marc Littman had a simple answer:


Metro's private security is in charge with protecting Metro's H.Q., closing train stations at night and escorting fares collected at machines to the bank.  Your average commuter would have little to no contact with the Metro Security and according to staff there are no plans to phase them out in favor of the Sheriffs.

One thing this does change is that there is now a clear chain of command in Metro's security headquarters.  In the past, when there was an incident involving a Metro bus, Sherrif's, the LAPD and private security all passed the buck in a circle on who should deal with it.  This change should make clear that the Sheriff's are in charge of Metro's security; which is a different and separate thing than enforcing the law on Metro drivers and staff.

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