On October 19, 2020, the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority, commonly known as “Metro” (tinyurl.com/4erces9r), commenced establishing a 15-member transit Public Safety Advisory Committee (PSAC). This committee will be tasked to review, comment and provide input on how Metro can reimagine (code for defunding) public safety on the transit system.
On the week of February 22, 2021, the selection of PSAC members was finalized (tinyurl.com/k7jxdefs). If you did not activate the link, stop. Please “Ctrl+Click” to follow the link or type in the link to your Google search bar. You must do so to truly understand the magnitude and false narrative of reimaging public safety on the Metro system. “We are committed to ensuring that we are using safety and law enforcement practices that keep Metro safe for everyone,” writes the PSAC, and yet not one of the 15 members has any law enforcement or public safety experience. Not one!
The PSAC held its first meeting on Wednesday, April 7. That same week, the Metro hired a new Security Chief, Judy Gerhardt (yes, that Judy Gerhardt), who retired in 2020 from the LASD after 40 years of honorable service to the residents of L.A. County. One of Chief Gerhardt’s direct reports is to the Metro’s Safety Committee Chair, Supervisor Holly Mitchell (tinyurl.com/6e6vw4jn).
Through a motion by the Metro Board, the PSAC was given the responsibility of reviewing the current and future Metro law enforcement contracts. Additionally, the PSAC was directed to:
• Develop a mission and values statement for transit policing
• Develop a transit ambassador program that provides staff presence at Metro facilities and on Metro vehicles
• Identify alternatives to armed law enforcement response to nonviolent crimes and code of conduct violations
• Enhance greater community stewardship of transit space
• The Universal Blue Light program proposed in Metro’s June 2018 ridership initiatives
• Education about and expansion of Metro fare discount programs
• Outreach and services for unhoused individuals
• Provide input on the new scope of services, budget and other provisions of the multiagency police contract renewal
• Review Metro’s Customer Code of Conduct
• A shift of resources from armed law enforcement to the above strategies
It must be noted that one of the members on the Metro PSAC is an organizing campaign manager at the Alliance for Community Transit (ACT-LA) that has authored a 60-page report titled “Metro as a Sanctuary: Reimaging Safety on Public Transit” (tinyurl.com/nf8d65ts). Members of the ACT-LA Transit Justice Committee and Public Safety Committee include ACLU SoCal. It must once again be noted that another one of the members on the Metro PSAC, according to the PSAC member biographies, is “senior staff attorney at the ACLU Southern California who works on police misconduct, government surveillance and protecting individuals’ and organizations’ rights in the digital domain.”
Make no mistake, the ACT-LA report is the blueprint for the Metro PSAC to recommend to the Metro Board of Directors to defund the multiagency Metro law enforcement contract. Page 7 of the ACT-LA report says, “Now is the time for Metro’s Board of Directors to take action. Metro’s five-year, multiagency, $786 million system safety security and law enforcement contract with LA Police, LA County Sheriff, Long Beach Police Departments expires in June 2022. With this contract sunset approaching, Metro has an opportunity to reconstitute public safety with and for the benefits of its riders and the people of LA County by prospectively investing the $786 million in savings to community-led alternatives.”
The LASD Transit Services Bureau has an annual $65 million contract with Metro that funds 313 employees: one Captain, eight Lieutenants, 33 Sergeants, 39 Bonus 1’s, 198 Deputies and 34 Professional Staff (18 LETs and one Crime Analyst). This team is grossly understaffed but continues to excel in providing constitutional public safety services for Metro commuters and Metro operators because they are trained specifically for the many safety nuances that are unique to community transit systems. If you know someone who uses the Metro (trains and busses) or works there, please ask them if more law enforcement is needed. We all know the answer!
The Metro Board needs to hear from the “silent majority” regarding this unconscionable effort to defund law enforcement at the Metro. All five of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors are Metro Board members, with Supervisor Solis being the Metro Board’s 1st Vice Chair. Please contact each Supervisor via email and call their offices with a very simple message: no defunding law enforcement at the Metro.
First District, Hilda L. Solis: email@example.com (213) 974-4111
Second District, Holly J. Mitchell: HollyJMitchell@bos.lacounty.gov (213) 974-2222
Third District, Sheila Kuehl: firstname.lastname@example.org (213) 974-3333
Fourth District, Janice Hahn FourthDistrict@bos.lacounty.gov (213) 974-4444
Fifth District, Kathryn Barger email@example.com (213) 974-5555