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L.A. Sheriff's Department Is Not Doing A Great Job Policing Metro, Report Says

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Policing on the Gold Line (Photo by Juliet Bennett Rylah/LAist)
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A recent audit says that the L.A. County Sheriff's Department is not doing a great job at policing the Metro system and that Metro, in turn, hasn't done great job of monitoring their performance. The conclusion of the report is that the LASD is not doing doing as much as it should be to reduce crime, maintain staff, respond to complaints, enforce fares or keep proper invoicing records. The audit, commissioned by the Metro's Board of Directors, covered five years beginning in July of 2009, according to L.A. County Supervisor Zev Yaroslovsky's website.

Sheriff’s Commander Michael Claus, who became the Metro's head of security in January, disagrees with some portions of the audit, but said he agrees with most of the report's critiques and says the division is already improving on his watch: "The bottom line is: we didn’t do what we should have done."

This report comes out just as the Transit Services Bureau made the transition on July 1 to become its own sheriff's division. One of the report's critiques is that there were too many vacancies and too many undertrained substitutes being sent into the field. Previously, deputies did not want to work on the transit beat. Claus is hoping that giving the transit beat its own division will help improve morale, and he said that there's already evidence that things are changing. Claus says that by creating the division, "probably 20 people have removed their transfer requests."

The report says the department needs to do a better job with its paperwork, and Metro needs to be more critical: LASD has at times over-billed Metro, occasionally double-billing for some staff members or charging the full amount even when some positions were vacant. And its system for dealing customer complaints has been spotty. The complaints are slow to wind their way through the system and deputies with multiple complaints were getting routed into the "performance mentoring program." (Claus said the backlog stretching back to 2010 has finally been eliminated.)

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The audit calls for better fare-validation devices with more options—like being able to check passengers for outstanding warrants. There is still some dispute as to whether it should be deputies' responsibility to check the TAP cards, or that of Metro security employees. The report says that response times and crime rates weren't being appropriately reported, but Claus says things should be better now that the department has switched to the FBI's Uniform Crime Reporting standards.

The audit says the sheriff's department has not done enough to improve the quality of life at Metro stations, but Claus disagrees. He says they've done a lot to clean up Union Station, including "solving delicate homeless rights issues" and cleaning up the station and making it safer. He could be referring to a policy tested in early 2014 that seemed to simply kick those without Metrolink or Amtrak tickets—which would include Metro riders as well as the homeless—out of the seating area.