NAACP: Metro needs its own Security Force

24 Jul

NAACP: Metro needs its own Security Force

By Adolphus M. Pruitt, President, St. Louis City NAACP
 
It is abundantly clear; Metro needs its own security force. Thus when I read about the security issues impacting Metrolink, it is apparent that the federal transportation dollars invested in MetroLink are at risk and in need of FTA intervention to “maximize the safe, secure, and efficient mobility of individuals.”   
Metro’s security is controlled by multiple and overlapping institutions. The multiplicity of agencies providing various security services has often created a familiar bureaucratic jam. In fact, the responsibilities for security-policy-making, planning, investment, operations, and management are divided among our local government organizations with the result that there is no unity of command, nor a coherent approach to the various security-issues confronted by Metro. 
Public transportation is a necessity that we often take for granted, and often overlooked in the fight against poverty. A poor and failing transportation systems can have a disproportionate impact on working and low-income individuals, thus its sustainability is critical. 
And a professional, well-organized transit-security-authority is the key governance requirement to contribute to Metro’s sustainability. It is essential that the managing the complexity of transit system security is done in a holistic manner to ensure both the safety and quality of life for its passengers.
VIA EMAIL
Honorable Roy Blunt, United State Senator
260 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
 
Honorable Richard J. Durbin, United States Senator
711 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
 
Honorable Claire McCaskill, United States Senator
503 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
 
Honorable Tammy Duckworth, United States Senator
524 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
 
Honorable Lacy Clay, United States Representative
2428 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515
 
Honorable Ann Wagner, United States Representative
435 Cannon House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515
 
Honorable John Shimkus, United States Representative
2217 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515
 
Honorable Mike Bost, United States Representative
1440 Longworth House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515
 
Re: Security on the Metro Transit System – St. Louis
 
Dear Senators Blunt, Durbin, McCaskill, Duckworth, and
         Representatives Clay, Wagner, Shimkus, Bost:
 
As you are well aware the authority of the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) was established by Title of the U.S. Code and incorporated the Urban Mass Transportation Act originally of 1964; and it stated that “it is in the interest of the United States, including its economic interest, to foster the development and revitalization of public transportation systems that (1) maximize the safe, secure, and efficient mobility of individuals.”   
In November 2016, the FTA’s Acting Administrator toured our federally-funded Metro Transit project sites; visiting FTA’s most recent investments such as $10.5 million for a transit center in downtown St. Louis in which 80% of the cost being picked up by FTA. Let’s not forget the $1 million if FTA money to raise Leonor K. Sullivan Boulevard along the St. Louis River Front.   
FTA assisted with the $48 million Eads Bridge rehabilitation by picking up 91% of the costs. FTA can take responsibility for the $80 million invested at Emerson Park, one of the largest transit oriented development (TOD) in the region. In Ferguson Missouri FTA is responsible for 80% of the $10.8 million to build the North County Transit Center; a $1 million to provide mobile health stations at Metrolink stations; and a $10.3 million TIGER grant for a new station in the Cortex Innovation Center.  
Thus when I read about the security issues impacting Metrolink, it is apparent that these federal investments are at risk and in need of FTA intervention to “maximize the safe, secure, and efficient mobility of individuals.”   
The St. Louis Post Dispatch has recently published “a disturbing pattern of county police officers loitering in offices, covering a camera and refusing to cooperate with Metro public safety officials.” According to published stories “one of the most recent camera-covering incidents happened June 25, just hours after a 14-year-old boy was beaten and robbed by two armed assailants at the North Hanley station.”  
The published stories also stated that “A federal Homeland Security law enforcement officer was assigned to Metro transit patrol as part of a beefed-up security plan for the busy Fourth of July weekend. Late in the afternoon on July 4, the officer walked into the North Hanley MetroLink substation to find 12 St. Louis County police officers milling about. A resulting Metro check of video footage determined that not only were county police officers loitering in the North Hanley security office instead of patrolling trains or platforms, at one point they covered the security camera with an envelope and tape.”  
Let’s me be perfectly clear; intelligence reports didn’t indicate any specific threat or imminent attack for the long holiday weekend. Still, in the wake of the mass shooting in Orlando, Florida, and terrorist attacks in Baghdad, Iraq, and Istanbul, Turkey, and across Saudi Arabia, U. S. officials weren’t taking any chances. Police were out in force across the U.S. for the July 4th Holiday Security, with the exception being our Mass Transit System (at least in parts of St. Louis County). 
Coupled with the fact that the published stories chronicled “for the past several months, Metro officers have been unable to enforce laws, even for skipping fares, on the transit lines in the county, under legal threat from both county Police Chief Jon Belmar and St. Louis County Prosecutor Bob McCulloch. Those county officials allege that the Metro officers — all of whom have Class A peace officer licenses through the state of Missouri — lack the proper legal authority to enforce the law.”  
It is abundantly clear; Metro needs its own security force. And while I’m keenly aware that federal and state statutes determine the jurisdiction and authority of all police departments, including transit police; most transit police services have the same police authority as any other national, state and local police agencies. Such as the New Jersey Transit Police Department, BART Police, Maryland Transit Administration Police, DART Police, SEPTA Transit Police, and the Utah Transit Authority Police Department.  Transit and railroad police tend to have better results in finding perpetrators of crimes they investigate than public police forces, possibly due to specialization and smaller case loads. It’s important to note that Metro public safety officers activity reports were nearly 20 times that of their counterparts in the county and higher throughout the other jurisdictions of the system. 
Passenger Rail Systems are inherently vulnerable to terrorist attacks; the Public Transportation Information Sharing and Analysis Center (PT-ISAC) and the public transit subportal on DHS’s Homeland Security Information Network (HSIN-PT) were established as primary mechanisms for sharing security-related information with public transit agencies. But according to a GAO study, a greater proportion of survey respondents who were unaware of the PT-ISAC or HSIN were from midsize agencies, nonrail agencies, and those without their own police department, such as Metro.
Metro’s security is controlled by multiple and overlapping institutions. The multiplicity of agencies providing various security services has often created a familiar bureaucratic jam. In fact, the responsibilities for security-policy-making, planning, investment, operations, and management are divided among our local government organizations with the result that there is no unity of command, nor a coherent approach to the various security-issues confronted by Metro.
Public transportation is a necessity that we often take for granted, and often overlooked in the fight against poverty. A poor and failing transportation systems can have a disproportionate impact on working and low-income individuals, thus its sustainability is critical.
And a professional, well-organized transit-security-authority is the key governance requirement to contribute to Metro’s sustainability. It is essential that the managing the complexity of transit system security is done in a holistic manner to ensure both the safety and quality of life for its passengers.

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