Starting this summer Long Beach Police Department officers will patrol the Blue Line, replacing Los Angeles County Sheriffs Deputies after Metro voted to approve contracts with local agencies.
The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority Board (Metro) unanimously approved today contracts with three local law enforcement agencies, including the Long Beach Police Department (LBPD), which will allow it to patrol the city’s portion of the Blue Line.
The multi-million dollar decision will allocate a total of $645.7 million over five years to the Los Angeles Police Department, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department (LASD) and the LBPD as Metro moves away from its previous model that had the LASD responding to all calls, which led to dramatically long response times in Long Beach.
The 12-0 vote was one of the first major decisions affecting the city since Mayor Robert Garcia was elected to a director position in January. Garcia spoke at length during a town hall meeting last week about the affect the multi-agency approach could have on the city, namely reducing those response times from about 14-15 minutes to less than five.
We did it, we won the Metro contract to add approx 30 new @LBPD officers to patrol the Blue Line. Proud to have made the motion.— Robert Garcia (@RobertGarciaLB) February 23, 2017
“We did it, we won the Metro contract to add approx 30 new LBPD officers to patrol the Blue Line,” Garcia tweeted out shortly after the vote. “Proud to have made the motion.”
Under the agreement the LBPD will receive just over $30 million to have its own officers patrol 10 stops along the Blue Line—roughly one-third of the line—spanning from the downtown sector to the last stop in North Long Beach. The original proposed amount for the contract by the LBPD was for over $42 million.
The proposal received a mixed reaction from members of the public who were present for the vote. Long Beach figures like Second District Councilwoman Jeannine Pearce, Downtown Long Beach Alliance CEO Kraig Kojian and others were on hand to pledge their support of the motion as it would benefit riders in the city.
“I drove here versus using the Blue Line for fear of my own security,” said Long Beach Convention and Visitors Bureau Director of Digital Communications Lauren Alexis Simpson. “I’ve personally have had issues with people saying derogatory things. I spoke with other colleagues and friends who have shared the same experiences.”
Kojian added his remarks that while he has the utmost respect for the LASD and its leader, former Long Beach Police Chief Jim McDonnell, Long Beach riders and its Blue Line stops are best suited to be patrolled by Long Beach officers.
Those opposed viewed the motion as an attempt to expand discriminatory policing to the transit system and a reallocation of Metro funds that would ultimately hurt ridership because it wasn’t being spent on improving the moving parts of the network.
“It’s crazy to think that riders are having to pay to be policed,” said Manuel Criollo. “This is money from Prop A, Prop C and Measure R. These are all bus-eligible funding, all transit-eligible funding. Think about reducing fares, think about expanding service. That will bring true, true safety and security to our riders.”
Ashley Franklin with the Labor Community Strategy Center pointed to the disproportionate ticketing of minority passengers, something that was the focus of an investigation launched by the United States Department of Transportation last month.
Its figures show that while black riders make up about 19 percent of ridership for Metro, they accounted for more than 50 percent of fare evasion tickets and 53 percent of all arrests in 2015. Under the multi-agency agreement, fare enforcement will be carried out by a civilian, not police officers.
“I’m thinking about how are we negotiating contracts for LAPD, Long Beach as well as the sheriffs when we’re talking about safety,” Franklin said. “I don’t know when safety became synonymous with systemic racism.”
When the vote was announced, one man broke into a chant of, “One thousand more buses, one thousand less police.”
Eric Preven, a resident of Studio City, pointed out his issue with the contracts; that the officers’ presence in many cases would be done through the use of overtime.
“I do not think that we’re setting ourselves up for a good outcome by having individuals—it’s been proven by various studies that under exhaustion, do not perform as well,” Preven said. “I appreciate the need for more security. I think having more sworn officers in the hubs is appropriate, but on every single bus we should have a private security guard.”
The use of overtime was acknowledged by both LAPD Chief Charlie Beck and LBPD Chief Robert Luna. The two chiefs said that in the initial rollout of the program they will need to use officers on overtime to patrol the stops in their respective jurisdictions but it’s something that will shrink over time.
Luna pointed to his department’s recent victories, secured through Measure A funds, that allowed for two police academies that will help bolster the ranks of the LBPD and allow for dedicated officers to work full-time to address issues on the Blue Line.
“It’s an industry standard to use overtime to get a lot of the missions that we have, accomplished,” Luna said. “That’s not always the goal, but it’s very effective, specifically in the way that we manage that.”
The changes will be effective come July, but a transition period will commence in March when the LAPD and LBPD take over stops previously under the command of the LASD.
Metro cited its own survey that showed 18 percent of riders polled said they would ride the system again if safety measures were increased. The same survey revealed that nearly 30 percent of participants had stopped using Metro because of safety concerns and that 15 percent wanted increased security measures.
Thursday’s vote will increase law enforcement personnel on Metro buses and rail operations from about 140-200 daily to a consistent presence of over 314 (14 LBPD) officers that will operate on a 24-hour basis during peak hours.
“Our overriding goal here is to ensure our transit riders can ride and work safely – without fear – 100 percent of the time,” said Phillip A. Washington, Metro CEO. “Increasing our partnership with local law enforcement agencies is one important part of a multi-layered approach that also includes integrating technology and coordinating closely with our federal agency partners to help keep the Metro System safe.”