Dear Supervisor Janice Hahn and Mayor Robert Garcia,
I will be entirely forthright in my address: the Metro Board must move forward with a multi-agency policing contract in order to provide further safety along the entirety of Metro’s 105 miles of light rail.
Historically, the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department (LASD) has patrolled the light rail, maintaining jurisdiction and I will not mince words, Supervisor and Mayor: they are failing thousands upon thousands of riders.
Come February 23, your next meeting, you will be making a decision about that policing contract on behalf of not just the tens of thousands of Long Beach residents who depend daily on the Blue Line, but the hundreds of thousands of Los Angeles County denizens who jump from one of your 93 stations to another, using the Green Line and Expo Line, the Red Line and the Purple Line. These commuters depend on you to provide them safety getting from Point A to Point B—and that is not happening.
When it comes to Long Beach—a community each of you serve—it behooves you to know the perception issues that plague the Blue Line. That pejorative perception is so strong that it not only causes those who wish to use transit as a form of environmental activism to use their car instead, further polluting and cramping our already polluted and cramped space, it wrongfully vilifies those who use the line on a daily basis.
I had a young black man approach me last night, following my public one-on-one with the Mayor to discuss transit issues. What he told me shrunk me and proved to me to how important this contract is: “The sheriff isn’t doing their job—and then the wealthy folk talk about the Blue Line’s ‘main issue’ is being unsafe. And when you keep saying the Blue Line is unsafe, what you’re really saying is that those who depend upon it make it unsafe. You’re calling me unsafe. You’re calling my family unsafe. I was born in 1993—I don’t know of a life without the Blue Line. Now I have not only have to struggle with a system that is getting too old, I have to defend myself as a hard worker who won’t hurt anybody… Sometimes I feel like the Sheriff is there not for safety but for punishment.”
I want the both of you to really think about that for a second.
It goes beyond the 30% of riders who say they already feel unsafe—putting safety as a larger concern over other things like efficiency and accessibility and location.
It goes beyond the Metro’s own safety audit from 2014 that directly concluded the LASD had failed to meet targets for everything from crime reduction to being present.
It goes beyond the disturbing fact that LASD has maintained a 16-minute average response time for riders calling in safety concerns (and that, could the Long Beach Police Department maintain its eight stations within the city limits, that time would be reduced to less than 5 minutes).
It is the blunt reality that our most marginalized populations are being vilified because of a lack of efficiency and proper protection from those who are contracted to do so.
Long Beach and other parts of Los Angeles deserve to have their own officers protect their own citizens and I find it intellectually challenging to presume otherwise.