- The Washington Times - Monday, August 1, 2005

Metro Transit Police will not set a timetable for evaluating recommendations by New York police on random bag searches as a precaution against terrorism, an agency spokesman said yesterday.

Metro Transit Police Chief Polly Hanson is scheduled to meet with officials who last Thursday visited with representatives from the New York Police Department to discuss the recent security-procedure changes in that city’s trains, Metro spokesman Steven Taubenkibel said.

The changes in New York’s subway system were implemented after last month’s London bombings.

During their visit to New York, officials discussed the legal ramifications of random searches of passengers, Mr. Taubenkibel said.

The public will be notified in advance if officials authorize the use of searches, he said.

“If [Chief Hanson] decides she wants to do random bag searches, she will let everyone know,” Mr. Taubenkibel said.

Metro officials also examined training procedures and communications during their trip to New York.

There was no word on when the officials would meet with Chief Hanson, Mr. Taubenkibel said.

Metro police have not decided on what recommendations, if any, would be adopted locally, he said.

“At this point, it’s still open for discussion,” Mr. Taubenkibel said. “We’re still researching.”

D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams said last week he supported random searches.

Arthur Spitzer, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of the National Capital Area, called such searches “merely symbolic.”

“[Random searches] would not significantly increase security, but would significantly invade the privacy of Metro’s riders,” he said.

Chief Hanson will consult with Richard A. White, Metro’s general manager and chief executive officer, and the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority’s board of directors when she reaches a decision, Mr. Taubenkibel said.

New York police began randomly searching subway passengers July 22, a day after four bombers tried to blow up three trains and a bus in London.

Two weeks earlier, suicide bombers in London killed 56 persons in a similar attack on the city’s transit system.

In the D.C. area, Metro deployed officers armed with automatic weapons and bomb-sniffing dogs after the attacks in London.

Metro ridership did not decrease significantly after the London attacks, Mr. Taubenkibel said.

An average of about 723,000 passengers rode Metro each weekday last month, he said.

On July 21, 769,553 riders used the system — the fourth-highest weekday figure in Metro’s history. In June, weekday ridership averaged about 734,000.

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