Metro’s board of directors plans to discuss and possibly vote on July 29 on a proposal that would temporarily ban commuters accused of sexual offenses and crimes involving a dangerous weapon or firearm.
One of the main reasons, said Metro Transit Police Chief Ronald Pavlik, comes from an increase in offenses such as indecent exposure on Metrorail and buses that have doubled amid the coronavirus pandemic .
Pavlik summarized the amended policy focusing on “repeat offenders” who were arrested for these crimes and generally released the same day to appear at a later court date.
He said some of those people are returning to public transport and committing similar sex and gun offenses.
Here is a summary of the amended policy that the Board’s Safety and Operations Committee recommended for approval on Thursday, July 15:
The person charged with a first offense would be given a 14-day suspension with written details of the inability to use Metrorail and Metrobus services.
The second offense becomes a 30-day suspension.
The third offense moves to a one-year ban from Metro.
The agency would schedule an appeal process within five days and handled by an outside lawyer and responded within 15 days. A person convicted would not be reimbursed for transit costs.
Pavlik said a person can board a train or bus without being automatically stopped if a person has a SmartTrip card because not all commuters check them in.
“It’s just another tool that the police can use,” he said. “As a police chief, I feel like I have to do more. I was looking to protect our employees and our runners.
However, those detained for an offense later identified as suspended would also face a trespass charge.
The board considered a summary of other transit agencies with similar policies such as Chicago, Los Angeles, and Atlanta.
Matt Letourneau, who chairs the safety committee, said the suspensions “frankly seem a little lax, a little lenient.”
“But this is our first foray into this area, so I’m comfortable moving forward with the understanding that if this proves to be effective, we can potentially consider different sanctions once the program is in place.” said Létourneau, who represents Loudoun County, Va.
Several transit riders disagreed with the policy and posted comments on Twitter.
“Say what you like about the need for something like this proposed policy, but by definition it would disproportionately affect those who are already subject to disproportionate policing by the MTPD – and it is not necessary.” , said James Pizzuro, software engineer. in Northern Virginia.
Before the committee votes, the District of Columbia ACLU issued a statement against the proposal and called it “racially discriminatory,” adding that it would punish runners accused of a felony before a conviction. .
Here is part of a statement from ACLU Policy Director Nassim Moshiree: “The proposal would have an undue impact on those who rely on public transportation and raises significant due process concerns by preventing people from commuting. ” access an essential public service – a service they might need to attend court appearances or see a parole officer – on the basis of an arrest, not a conviction, and without the possibility of being heard by a neutral decision-maker.