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Board Extends Metro’s Problematic Transit Policing Contract for Three More Years

2014 Metro photo of County Sheriff deputies policing – via Metro’s The Source

This afternoon the Metro board approved extending the agency's transit policing contract an additional three years. Metro currently pays about $150 million per year for its multi-agency policing contract with LAPD, L.A. County Sheriff's Department, and Long Beach Police Department.

There's a lot not to like about current Metro policing:

Since the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police in 2020, Metro has undertaken an all-too-gradual process to reimagine its approach to public safety. Though the process did yield Metro's recently launched transit ambassador program, the broader heel-dragging on the part of law enforcement has resulted in repeated extensions of the problematic status quo.

There is some resistance to that status quo among agency leadership. For years, boardmember and County Supervisor Holly Mitchell steadfastly refused to vote for law enforcement contract renewals. Today, she was joined by recently elected Supervisor Lindsey Horvath, who proposed a substitute motion that would have had the board vote on a final contract extension in May. That motion narrowly failed.

Ultimately, with Mitchell abstaining and Horvath opposing, the contract extension passed 11-1-1.

Transit advocates, under the umbrella of the Alliance for Community Transit (ACT-LA), rallied against the contract extension. ACT-LA and its allies are pushing for Metro to step up care-based approaches, including an expanded presence of ambassadors, station attendants, and mental health workers, as well as more services for the unhoused, restrooms for system users, and space for street vendors - plus restoring and increasing transit service (still running below pre-pandemic levels).

In addition to extending the existing transit policing contract, the board unanimously voted to request a May 2023 report back on Metro expanding its own small transit police force. The board also approved a step toward that, adding 48 more Transit Security Officers focused on deterring bus operator assaults.

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