WASHINGTON — The Metro Transit Police Department (MTPD) recently announced plans to expand police presence on trains, buses, and in stations. In response, Nassim Moshiree, Policy Director of the ACLU of the District of Columbia, said today:
“Making the Metro safer means increasing accessibility, reliability, and affordability of our transit system for everyone in the DMV. As the WMATA board recognized, safety also means connecting youth and adults with the services and community supports they need. Increasing police presence and power, however, would undermine our shared goal of transit safety."
“In practice, increasing the number of Metro Transit Police Department (MTPD) officers on patrol will make our buses, trains, and stations less safe. MTPD has a documented history of tackling, harassing, tasering, and pepper-spraying riders, and of targeting Black and brown riders for minor offenses like eating, drinking, or the inability to afford fare. WMATA has provided no data justifying an increase in MTPD presence and no evidence showing that more police will result in more safety. Given MTPD’s history, this plan will likely increase harmful confrontations between officers and riders."
“We also have significant concerns about MTPD establishing a Community Services Bureau. Increasing access to community resources is a laudable goal, but should not involve more interactions with police officers. Housing a youth outreach program at MTPD is particularly concerning because research has shown that police interaction with youth is directly tied to the criminalization of young people. In 2019, the incarceration rate of Black youth was 11.1 times as high as their white peers in the District. And a 2018 report found that D.C.’s Black girls are arrested at a rate 30 times greater than white girls and boys, mostly for nonviolent behavior."
“What makes this proposal even more troubling is that the WMATA board has not established a fully independent body that can investigate complaints and impose discipline for MTPD officers engaged in misconduct. For years, D.C. residents have reported to the ACLU-DC that complaints filed with Metro seem to fall into a black hole. Increased police presence without oversight, accountability or transparency is a recipe for a familiar disaster."
“We therefore call on the WMATA board to reject this plan, and instead to invest in making our transit system accessible, reliable, and affordable for all. We also call on the board and D.C. Council to work together to establish a strong, independent oversight body to hold MTPD accountable. Robust oversight combined with community investment would go a long way to make transit safer for all riders in the DMV.”