The Los Angeles Metro Board of Directors may consider alternate agencies to patrol its routes as Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva and the board wrestle over who will be awarded the next contract that could pay out hundreds of millions dollars to provide security on its buses and trains.
The Thursday morning meeting came two weeks after Villanueva threatened to pull all of his deputies from Metro transit services if the department did not get the contract to fully police the routes, including those currently patrolled by Los Angeles and Long Beach police officers.
Director Janice Hahn, who represents Long Beach on the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, coauthored a request stating the agency needs to be prepared to fill the gap if Villanueva makes good on his threat.
“I feel like I operate in life taking his threats seriously,” Hahn said.
Hahn said she didn’t know if the solution was to expand the contracts of the LAPD and LBPD to police more of the line or if there was another answer.
Director James Butts, a former Santa Monica Police Department chief who is now mayor of Inglewood, supported the motion, stating that Villanueva’s sharing videos of incidents of violent crimes, painting a picture of “carnage” on the Metro system, was inappropriate.
“That a contractor would do something like this to undermine trust in the system for political gain is unconscionable,” Butts said.
Villanueva is campaigning for reelection in the upcoming election.
Butts said he’d like to see a number of changes integrated into a contract for whichever agencies take over, including requiring geolocation for officers who work the Metro routes under the contract.
He cautioned that partnering with cities, many of whom are in bad financial positions, could serve as an opportunity for cities to offload police costs without geolocation devices.
Butts said Metro should only pay for hours actually worked on Metro routes or platforms, something that he said could boost the perception of safety. He asked that a solution presented to the board be a flexible one that could weather political turmoil that is affecting the status of the sheriff’s contract right now.
Members of the board were widely supportive of coming up with a plan to combat Villanueva’s threat, with some posing looking inward to Metro’s own police force, or potentially using the $246 million dedicated to the LASD in its current contract to expand its unarmed safety ambassador program.
Long Beach and Los Angeles police departments reached a temporary extension beyond the July 2022 expiration of the five-year contract signed in February 2017. LBPD received $30 million and LAPD received $370 million to provide police services on Metro routes in their jurisdictions. The extension could run through June 2023 if necessary.
The sheriff’s department has not reached an extension with Metro. The agency is putting a request for proposals out in the coming days for other police agencies to bid on a long-term contract.