Two weeks after it announced the deployment of nearly 300 unarmed Metro Ambassadors aboard its trains and buses, the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) board has approved the hiring of 48 new Transit Security Officers, according to the agency's news release.
The Board also authorized the agency to re-negotiate and potentially extend for up to three years its contracts with its law enforcement partners to ensure more visual presence on the system, while it evaluates the feasibility of creating its own in-house public safety department.
Metro added that it is working with the city and the county to add homeless outreach, drug addiction, and crisis intervention teams, and is improving its use of security cameras and lighting and more frequent cleaning of stations and vehicles.
The Board also approved new Bias-Free Policing and Public Analytics policies and a revised Customer Code of Conduct to ensure consistency with the public safety mission and values that were adopted by the board in 2021. The mission and values statements specify that all transit riders are entitled to a safe, dignified, and human experience on Metro.
"The Metro System is certainly not immune from the broader societal challenges we see throughout our county, but we are steadfast in our commitment to taking all steps necessary to promote a safe and pleasant transit experience for every one of our riders," said Ara J. Najarian, Metro board chair. "Safety is our No. 1 priority. Our Board’s actions today are a testament to the bold and strategic actions we are now taking to deliver a safe transit system."
Law Enforcement Contract Extensions
The board authorized Metro to negotiate extensions to the agency’s multi-agency transit law enforcement contracts with the Los Angeles Police Department, Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, and Long Beach Police Department.
Metro staff recommended that it was in the best interest of the agency, its employees, and customers to extend law enforcement contracts with modified scopes of work that are consistent with the board-approved public safety mission and values, rather than accept the responses it received to its Request for Proposals for new law enforcement services.
Four local police agencies bid on the new contract, but two of the four proposers asked for exceptions to the terms of the contract that would have resulted in inconsistent policing across the system and would have conflicted with the agency’s public safety mission and values.
Metro staff recommended canceling the RFP and instead re-negotiating and extending the modified contracts for up to three years. Metro staff will return to the board in May on the feasibility of establishing an in-house public safety department.
"Bringing additional layers of public safety in-house will give Metro a greater ability to reliably deploy personnel with the training and capabilities to respond to the variety of incidents that occur on our transit system," said Hilda L. Solis, L.A. County supervisor. "I look forward to receiving a Metro staff’s report on the feasibility of a public safety department to inform our continuing efforts to deliver an enhanced customer experience and greater accountability for Metro transit riders."
Additional Transit Security Officers
The Board’s approval of funding for Metro to hire 48 additional Metro Transit Security Officers, or TSOs will create a Permanent Bus Riding Team that will be deployed to specific lines with high frequencies of public safety issues, with a primary objective of deterring bus operator assaults and code of conduct violations.
TSOs are part of Metro’s own security team. There were 158 assaults on bus operators in 2022, an increase from 115 in 2021.
"It is important that we’re finally going to have a team of transit security officers who are dedicated to our buses and are actually riding them alongside our passengers," said Janice Hahn, Metro second vice chair. "Most of Metro’s consistent transit riders take the bus and they deserve a safe and comfortable ride."