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Metro transit police: Not quite the region’s finest
In unique jurisdiction, outcomes of enforcement sometimes fall short
Question of the Day
This sometimes allowed them run-in after run-in with the law without a mark that would mandate their exclusion from the force. When Mr. Nichols was arrested on charges of trespassing for returning to a Greenbelt Safeway from which he had been banned because of a prior incident, for example, prosecutors agreed to spare the expense of a trial and conviction if he performed 24 hours of community service. His participation in john school after the prostitution arrest garnered a similar result.
Arrest histories were most common in the MTPD’s Special Police unit, 150 commissioned officers who guard Metro facilities such as headquarters and bus depots. Mr. Nichols and Ms. Jones are both members of that unit. It was special police officers who, when a teenager who did not work for Metro drove a bus out of the Bladensburg Road station in 2010, allowed him through two identification checkpoints. He later crashed the bus into a tree and fled.
Another officer recently fired his service weapon accidentally inside Metro’s headquarters downtown, officers said.
Still, in some cases, little accountability from management was evident, according to records. Mr. Nichols received a three-day suspension for the prostitution incident, according to MTPD records.
A report by the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority’s Office of Inspector General initiated after on-the-job drug use by department employees last year, a copy of which was obtained by The Times, also said that the special police section’s supervisor, Capt. Anthony Metcaffe, did not act on information about officers sleeping on the job.
“He said that he did not recall receiving or did not receive” the complaints, the report said, but an examination by the information technology department “reflected that he received all these emails.”
Some information about the department is impossible to know because the agency has failed to turn over materials under public-records requests. It recently invested in MetroStat, a crime-tracking tool that provides sophisticated analysis. But when a reporter filed a formal request for such analysis, Metro claimed the closest thing in existence was a video of MTPD Chief Michael A. Taborn announcing the tool’s arrival.
Records that Metro separately released to The Times show that in 2010, the transit police confronted a total of 50 riders about consuming food or beverages in the transit system, nine of whom were ticketed and one of whom was arrested. Forty were warned. Officials said protocol calls for warnings before ticketing.
At about 215 million trips per year, that is one contact every 4 million riders.
Eight were confronted for playing loud music, according to data recently produced by Metro in response to an open-records request filed last year.
Officers said that informal warnings for infractions are recorded as the issuance of “calling cards.” Records show 250 of those given to people on foot each year.
The force’s primary activity was making an average of 5,200 stops yearly for fare evasion, 10 percent of whose targets were arrested, 11 percent of whom were warned, and 35 percent of which had an unclear outcome, including some evaders who got away. The rest were ticketed. It also gave 1,800 tickets for alcohol violations.
In terms of serious crimes between 2008 and 2010, the transit police force reported four rapes, three of which remain unsolved. Also reported were two homicides, neither of which resulted in an arrest.
That works out to about 11 tickets and three arrests per officer yearly.
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About the Author
Luke Rosiak is a projects reporter on The Washington Times’ investigative team. He formerly covered lobbying and campaign finance for two watchdog groups as well as transportation for The Washington Post. Luke can be reached at email@example.com.
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