Sheriff Alex Villanueva called the current shared system for policing Los Angeles County’s transit system a failure Wednesday. He said that he would remove all his transit patrol officers from duty on July 1, unless his department receives a contract to manage all policing at stations, trains, and buses.
Villanueva pointed out a rise of criminal activity at Metro stations and on Metro transit lines, as well as a growing number of homeless people living on trains or loitering on them. “the status quo is unacceptable. We’re not going to continue with it.”
A 2017 contract approved by the sheriff’s office and the Los Angeles, Long Beach and police departments share the Metro system’s policing duties.
Villanueva stated that his agency’s contract with Metro will expire July 1. The department informed Metro Wednesday that it intends to submit a bid for the entire policing-services contract. Deputies will be required to have full enforcement power, which includes Code of Conduct violations like trespassing and urinating, playing loud, or evading. This contract, the sheriff stated, will allow them to shift to Metro security guards to address these issues.
“We are going to bid on the entire contract,”He told reporters. “We’re not going to bid for parts of it. We’re not going to bid for the role of being overpaid security.”
According to the sheriff’s statement, the agency has nearly 1,000 vacancies due to a hiring freeze. He said that he would be willing to shift 300 deputies who are currently assigned to transit and move them to other tasks to fill the gap.
“We have all of the personnel that are dedicated to the system — I have three jobs waiting for every single deputy,”He stated. “… I have the ability and the need to actually redeploy the personnel where they’re actually going to be sworn peace officers working as cops, actually saving lives, preventing crime from occurring and solving crimes that occur. This is all about public safety.”
He claimed that the sheriff’s department contract proposal would be $30 million less than Metro’s current policing agreements. He said that full enforcement authority will be needed on the transit system, and that the issue would require the attention of the courts. “is not negotiable.”
“It’s going to be a contract where we’re going to enforce the code of conduct, fare evasion and the rule of law,”He stated. “That’s what we’re going to do.”
Metro officials could not immediately be reached for comment.
In December, Metro’s Board of Directors increased law-enforcement contract funds. But, they also continued efforts toward a more community-based approach towards public safety. This included relying on ambassadors or security guards to respond for basic conduct violations and not armed law-enforcement. It all began after George Floyd’s tragic death. This prompted a national re-evaluation in policing.
Metro’s vision includes the creation of transit ambassadors and elevator attendants. A flexible dispatch system allows for unarmed security personnel, mental health specialists, homeless outreach workers and mental health specialists to be able to respond.
Transit ambassadors will receive training in de-escalation, customer service, and support for transit riders and workers.
Villanueva cited several recent high-profile Metro system crimes, including homeless people pushing people in front of trains and shooting passengers, an attack on Willowbrook station, and a case where a homeless man died on a train, but was not found for six hours. Villanueva said Tuesday’s shooting aboard the New York subway train was a reminder of the importance of comprehensive security systems for transit lines.
Late Wednesday, the LAPD released a statement via Twitter, in which it stated that there had been a decline in violent crime within the Metro system compared to pre-pandemic levels.
“The safety of the MTA ridership has not wavered in significance for the Los Angeles Police Department since obtaining the MTA contract in 2017,”According to the LAPD. The LAPD says that the men and women who work for the LAPD constantly monitor buses, trains and platforms 24 hours a day. Comparing year-to-date pre-pandemic violent crime in 2019 and 2022, there is a 22% increase. This means that 47 victims of violent crime are less likely to be killed.
“We continue to collaborate with MTA, various employee unions, Amtrak and our law enforcement partners in LASD and Long Beach.”
Villanueva released a statement hours after the end of his news conference. “clarification”Statement to make “At no time was I casting any dispersions upon the (LAPD officers’ union) Los Angeles Police Protective League and the Los Angeles Police Department. My comments were directed at the decisions made by the city of Los Angeles and the MTA board and is no way a reflection on the brave men and women of the LAPPL and LAPD, who do an incredible job for the Angelenos they protect and serve.”