Management & Operations

Bizarre transit police force raises security questions

Posted on April 1, 2006

In late February, a rare model Ferrari crashed into a utility pole while traveling at high speeds in Malibu, Calif. A man at the scene of the accident claimed he was a passenger and that the driver had fled after the accident. He then provided information stating that he was a deputy police commissioner for the San Gabriel Valley Transit Authority (SGVTA), a small, privately owned paratransit provider in suburban Los Angeles. Minutes later, while authorities at the scene attempted to make sense of the event, two unidentified men showed up flashing badges and claiming to be “homeland security” personnel. The two said they were also employed by the SGVTA, setting off an investigation that eventually revealed a potentially dangerous loophole in California law regarding public transit police forces. Upon further investigation, the SGVTA, which operates only five buses owned by Yosef Maiwandi, was found to have its own police force with an antiterrorism unit. In fact, the agency’s Website, before the address changed, described the SGVTA police department as a large law enforcement body with a chief, detectives and police cruisers. Despite these claims, other law enforcement agencies in the area, as well as some of the small municipalities that contract with the SGVTA for transportation, claimed that they were unaware of the small paratransit agency’s police force. Furthermore, authorities discovered that the Ferrari passenger claiming to be a deputy commissioner has a felony record and is wanted for other crimes overseas. According to news reports, his position with the SGVTA was based solely on an agreement made with Maiwandi that he would help provide surveillance equipment for the agency. This peculiar set of circumstances has prompted many questions for authorities. For example, what qualifications must be met for an operator to create a transit agency with its own police force? And was the SGVTA receiving or attempting to receive federal funding or tax dollars in some way? In the state of California, transit agencies are required by law to meet a set of public safety regulations. To assist in their compliance with state law, agencies are permitted to create and maintain their own police forces. The SGVTA “legally formed a public safety department that has been properly recognized by all law enforcement credentialing agencies, although not yet certified by California’s Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training,” said Maiwandi. According to a forthcoming study by the Transportation Research Board (TRB) titled Guidebook for Startup Transit Agencies, there are also “various federal regulations, policies and procedures with which public transit agencies must comply, such as Federal Transit Administration circulars, federal registers, grant contracts and certifications and assurances.” But Ann Joslin, principal investigator on the study, said that these regulations must only be met if the agency is receiving federal funding. Otherwise, any private company can call itself a transit provider and start its own police or security force. The SGVTA has not received federal funding and has a clean history in terms of providing not-for-profit transportation services to people with disabilities and the elderly. “We are just trying to help people,” said Maiwandi, adding that the SGVTA runs on donations and does not rely on tax revenue or any other government funding. According to Joslin, the most important qualifications the agency would have to meet would be state and federal laws regarding drivers (depending on the vehicle) and ADA requirements for transporting people with disabilities. An investigation is ongoing, and it remains unclear whether the SGVTA actually broke any rules.

View comments or post a comment on this story. (0 Comments)

More News

Gannon appointed to permanent GM post for King County Metro

Gannon, 47, served as interim GM from March 2016 until now. He was Metro Deputy GM from 2013-2016, and Human Resources manager for the King County DOT from 2011-2013.

Fla.'s HART to develop autonomous circulator route

The project would be one of the first of its kind in the U.S. utilizing autonomous technology and has the potential to become a genuine problem solver, according to FDOT and HART.

CTA's 2017 budget includes no fare increases, service cuts for 8th year

Long-term deals on fuel and increased non-fare revenue have helped CTA cope with reduced funding from the state and a decline in ridership, which fell to just under 500 million in 2016.

SORTA to sell advertising to pay for bus benches

In a separate ordinance, the city agreed to stop removing currently illegal benches at some stops unless they are unsafe.

Future for connected cars is promising, obstacles remain: study

Obstacles include privacy and security concerns, to a lack of infrastructure and the need for a legislative framework.

See More News

Post a Comment

Post Comment

Comments (0)

More From The World's Largest Fleet Publisher

Automotive Fleet

The Car and truck fleet and leasing management magazine

Business Fleet

managing 10-50 company vehicles

Fleet Financials

Executive vehicle management

Government Fleet

managing public sector vehicles & equipment


Work Truck Magazine

The number 1 resource for vocational truck fleets

Schoolbus Fleet

Serving school transportation professionals in the U.S. and Canada

LCT Magazine

Global Resource For Limousine and Bus Transportation

Please sign in or register to .    Close