Metro Shuffles the Deck on Security

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.

  • “Jovial persona?” Well, sure. Jovial people are always the best executioners; it’s the obverse of the common observation that melancholy people make the best clowns.

  • Wow, that’s really melodromatic.

    Now can we lock the door and say “No” to Breda and the company that makes the turnstiles?

  • Erik G.

    How many TVM’s will the Sheriffs block off while servicing, restocking and collecting money from the TVM’s.

    Will it be 2 out of 3?

    Will it be 3 out of 5?

    Or will it be contracted out to the same goons who do said for Metrolink while brandishing a shotgun (always a precise weapon in crowded situations-NOT!) ?

  • David Galvan

    (you sure it’s not a beanbag gun?)

  • Erik G.

    @ David

    Nope. Shotgun with spare shells on the strap. All to protect ticket stock?

  • I was at Union Station on 28 July, filming the giant fan that was in the Union Station end of the corridor. The cash-collecting goons walked between me and the fan, and I got a very good look at the shotgun the second guard (who was trailing the man with the money). Non-lethal cartridge issues are identified by colour markings, and this was not such a weapon. There was also a bandolier of shotgun cartridges, which clearly marked the style of firearm. However, I could not confirm if it were shot or slug in the cartridge.

    I watched in amazement as these two very serious people strolled through the throngs of mid-afternoon commuters, thinking how many people could get maimed or killed in the event of a heist. I also thought that in the event of a firefight, the agencies responsible might lose a lot more money (and favourable public opinion) than could be possibly “protected” after being sued by innocent bystanders mowed down by shotgun blasts.

  • David Galvan

    Well, I’m sure the fact that the sheriffs have visible firearms is a major deterrent to would be thieves. I think sheriffs having firearms while collecting TVM money is appropriate. Just like when armed personnel come to take collections from ATM’s.

    As for what type of firearm is best for that situation, I’m no expert, but I would think that beanbag-type guns would be best for the sheriffs to carry in this situation, although if people could recognize that they were non-lethal weapons, they would probably lose some of their deterrent effect.

    I once spoke with my buddy, a former police officer, about what he thought about guns as weapons of home defense. He said he thought shotguns were probably the best bet, because a shotgun fired at close range is deadly, but at a moderate distance the shot pellets spread out, become less dangerous, and are less likely to penetrate walls. Whereas handguns can more easily penetrate interior walls of ones home at large distances, increasing the likelihood of accidentally harming one’s own family members if firing inside the home at an intruder.

  • brianguy

    Eric G. it was already pointed out above that the fare collection will stay with the Metro Security and in no way be transitioned to the Sherriffs.

    also this was a good article and appreciated, except for all the “Sherrif’s” sprinkled throughout. spellcheck more.

  • David,
    Make that TWO “former police officers” with whom you have spake on the issue of firearms.

    CQB—Close Quarters Combat—is not the same in one’s residence as it is in a crowded public space, especially a space in which several modes of poorly planned public transit and long passageways prompt commuters to rush in a way that might prompt an armed person to react in an unfavourable fashion.

    I concur with the concern regarding colour-coded firearms. They are usually deployed along with personnel whose lethal rounds can back up a situation that a clearly marked non-lethal Taser device or bean-bag device fails to deter.

    In this case, however, a well-trained armed guard with a lethal pistol is what is required. The architecture at Union Station is solid—unlike that of a personal residence where pine frames and drywall tend to be all that separates most rooms—and a properly trained person would be able to guide a rifled bullet to its intended target with a finesse that a non-rifled slug or rapidly widening blast of shot could not possibly perform.

    brianguy: As for the future of fare collection duties, I would caution against never saying never.

  • cj teacher

    What the story does not state is that after firing the top 2 guys, Art Leahy hired another DEO with a different title and gave him the responsibilities of over-seeing the contract with the Sheriff’s Dept. This is a nearly $70 MILLION dollar contract that was run without Metro oversight before Mr. Eckles was hired. Eliminating him and replacing him with a “yes” man has allowed LASD to use METRO as their personal piggybank. 


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