In 1997, the LA METRO Board decided to eliminate their own police force in favor of contracting law enforcement services with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and Los Angeles Police Department. The personnel from the disbanded force were split between the two agencies, with 60% going to LAPD, and the remaining 40% to the Sheriff’s Department.
Since then, the contract has been expanded to include the Long Beach Police Department, which patrols sections of the METRO line that traverses their jurisdiction.
I thought the agreement was a bad idea back then, and think it is an even greater boondoggle today.
As written, the contract called for the LASD to absorb a multitude of administrative and other costs, which to my mind were too high a price to pay. As I recall, then-sheriff Lee Baca was a proponent of the move, apparently more as a way to expand the Sheriff’s Department than to add any meaningful value to public transportation.
Over the ensuing years, the METRO line has come under increasingly harsh criticism for the dramatic rise in crime and the public perception that the system is patently unsafe for riders. To their credit, the staff of the LASD Transit Services Bureau (the bureau responsible for manning and patrolling the system) has done what it can to make the system safer.
Unfortunately, management directives from the METRO Board have made it increasingly difficult for law enforcement to do their jobs properly.
Back in March of this year, the METRO Board made it crystal clear they are angling to once again re-create their own police agency. As part of this plan, they voted to allow METRO CEO Stephanie Wiggins the authority to renew the law enforcement contract on an annual basis for up to a 3-year period. It is during this period that METRO will evaluate how to plan and fund their new agency. As such, the already tenuous relationship between METRO and the LASD has become even more strained.
It is with this in mind that I believe it is high time that the LASD take the steps necessary to terminate their involvement in the METRO contract as soon as humanly possible. I believe that under the contract requirements, the LASD needs to give METRO 6 months’ notice of their intent to terminate. I say do it now. There is absolutely no reason not to make this preemptive move.
What will this do for the LASD? Other than to get out of an untenable, abusive relationship, the immediate benefit would be that the department would be able to transfer 330 personnel, 290 being sworn peace officers, to other patrol stations throughout the county. Imagine, having the ability to infuse high quality, patrol trained personnel directly into line spots to help alleviate the suffocating shortages of personnel in patrol stations, countywide. There would be no need to recruit and train these 290 sworn personnel. With recruitment costs averaging $125K per deputy, it is a huge up-front savings.
This is one of those situations where the LASD needs to just rip off the band aid and move on. It has become increasingly clear that members of the METRO Board are anti-cop and anti-LASD. Dump them now and leave them to their own devices. There is no reason for the department to hang around and wait for the inevitable.