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Transportation and Mobility

Metro Board Extends Police Contract With LA, Explores Option For Its Own Police Force

A blue-tinted Metro train arrives to a transit platform near downtown Los Angeles as an out-of-focus man in a blue shirt walks away from the train.
A Metro train arrives at a station.
(Courtesy L.A. Metro)
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Los Angeles Metro's Board of Directors voted Thursday to extend its contract with the Los Angeles and Long Beach police departments and the Los Angeles County Sheriff's department for up to three more years.

This comes as L.A.'s transit system faces scrutiny over safety concerns, a spike in overdose deaths and police conduct.

Key audit findings

An audit recently revealed that sheriff's deputies working on Metro ride the trains just 12 out of 178 shifts a week. Another striking figure: more than 50% of emergency calls on Metro were answered by police not assigned to the system. LA Metro spends between $150 and $200 million on policing each year.

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L.A. County Supervisor Lindsey Horvath cast the lone no vote against the contract extension. She said in a statement: "We cannot blindly hand out taxpayer dollars for contracted services without knowing what we are getting in return."

Considering in-house Metro police

At Thursday's meeting the board also voted unanimously to explore creating an in-house Metro police department. The option was touted as an opportunity to have greater control over the police force on LA's buses and trains. Mayor Karen Bass, a Metro board member, says she supports the move.

"I'm very excited at the notion of creating an in-house agency that could be a real opportunity to re-envision public safety," Bass said at the meeting.

In public comment, L.A. residents and community activists spoke against extending the current police contract and an in-house police force for Metro.

“Policing does not mean safety for everyone,” one person told the Metro board. “Especially for working class communities of color that face state sanctioned violence at the hand of police officers every day.”

A call for social services

Others asked for greater social services on Metro.

"Imagine instead what we could spend with the 200 million we spend each year on policing," said Asiyahola Sankara, an ACLU SoCal fellow. "Imagine how many more social service outreach teams, elevator attendants, mental health specialists, cleaning and maintenance staff, transit ambassadors."

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Earlier this month, Metro hired 300 unarmed transit ambassadors to ride trains and buses assisting passengers.

Metro has contracted with the L.A. and Long Beach police departments and the L.A. County Sheriff's department for law enforcement on the transit system since 2017. The partnership recently came under scrutiny when the LA City Council voted to approve a six-month extension to LAPD's contract with Metro.

The vote took place in March, but covered the last half of 2022. New city council members Eunisses Hernandez and Hugo Soto-Martinez voted against the extension, calling for greater investment in non-police intervention on Metro. Soto-Martinez said the extension was for only 236 officers.

The Metro will hear a presentation on what an in-house police force for Metro would look like in May.

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