An alleged attack on the Metro A Line in Long Beach last week has Los Angeles County Supervisor Janice Hahn calling for a “full accounting” of the organization’s partnerships with security and law enforcement agencies, which are contracted to patrol its bus and rail lines.
In a story published by ABC-7, a 53-year-old woman said she was punched in the face repeatedly by another passenger after boarding the train at the Downtown Long Beach platform Wednesday evening.
Despite calling the police and trying to get the train conductor to stop, a witness said it took 11 minutes to finally have the train stop at the Artesia Station. The suspect fled before police arrived on the scene.
The woman, who is Asian, said racial slurs were used during the attack, but a statement issued to ABC by the Long Beach Police Department said that the attack was not believed to be racially motivated.
Last month, a man was stabbed to death while riding the Metro in Long Beach after a fight broke out while the train was heading southbound before stopping at the First Street platform Downtown.
Hahn is calling for answers as to why LBPD officers, who Metro has a long-standing contract with to patrol trains and platforms, as well as its own safety ambassadors and security teams did not come to the woman’s aid. Metro announced the deployment of nearly 200 ambassadors and approved funding for 48 new security officers earlier this year.
“We have multi-million-dollar law enforcement contracts, Metro security, and 300 Metro Ambassadors who have been hired to ride our buses and trains,” Hahn said in a statement Monday. “But where were they when this woman was beaten up on the Blue Line last week? With this many layers of security, why didn’t anyone come to this woman’s aid?”
Hahn, who serves on the Metro board of directors, said she wants to know where those entities were at the time of the attack.
“Enough is enough,” Hahn added. “Our trains need to be safe for our residents.”
Hahn is also calling for an explanation of the protocols for when emergency train stops are requested and if the protocols were followed in this instance.
Eric Stachura, a spokesperson for the LBPD, said Monday afternoon in an email that there was not an officer on the train at the time.
The department did not address a question about how long it took officers to respond to the incident, which Stachura said reportedly happened when the train was between the Pacific Coast Highway and Willow Street stations.
Metro has paid the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, the Los Angeles Police Department and the LBPD over $900 million total since entering into a contract with the agencies in 2017 to provide public safety services along its bus and rail network.
Long Beach’s original contract that ran through 2022 paid the department $27 million for 30 new officers to patrol the then-Blue Line and the eight Metro stations that exist in the city.
The contract for the three law enforcement agencies to patrol Metro lines could be extended, but it’s now being questioned by Metro officials, who have raised the prospect of creating a new police force specifically for Metro to ensure that its lines are being patrolled.
During a meeting in March, Metro directors criticized the level of service they were receiving from the three agencies, noting that verifying if officers are actually on trains and platforms requires Metro staff to reference security cameras to audit individual officer reports.
James Butts, who also sits on the Metro board, said Metro’s contract was an “economic bonanza” for the police agencies and questioned if they weren’t just using Metro funding to supplement their budgets and dispatching officers to other areas of need in their respective jurisdictions.
A Metro inspector general’s report issued in December found that LBPD deploys its officers in two shifts of six, with four of those officers assigned to ride trains and patrol platforms while another officer and a sergeant stay in a patrol vehicle nearby.
That report noted though that LBPD was not able to provide data for how many times officers boarded trains or how much time they spent on trains or at stations to provide visibility. The data is self-reported, according to the inspector general’s report.
Richard Mejia, an LBPD spokesperson, said in an April email that Metro officer staffing is typically the six positions listed in the inspector general’s report, but it can “vary based on operational needs” and other factors.
Mejia said each Metro-funded officer, who are deployed on foot, on bikes or in a vehicle, is expected to ride the train one time each during their shift, which amounts to about 40-45 minutes to complete the Long Beach loop and make random stops at platforms.
“Metro officers are designated to spend their shift on the Metro platforms, trains or in the area of Metro stations on patrol,” Mejia said in April. “Should an emergency arise that is unrelated to Metro, where the assistance of Metro officers is needed, they would respond.”
The full Metro Board of Directors has yet to be presented with a full report on the feasibility of creating its own police force.
Editor’s note: This story has been updated with a statement from the Long Beach Police Department regarding the alleged attack.