CommunityWilliam J. Ford

Metro Committee OKs Ban on Riders Accused of Sex Offenses, Firearm Crimes

Metro’s safety and operations committee recommended approval Thursday for a proposal that would temporarily ban riders accused of sex offenses or crimes involving a dangerous weapon or firearm.

The proposal was spurred largely by an uptick in reports of offenses such as indecent exposure on Metro trains and buses, which have doubled amid the coronavirus pandemic, said Metro Transit Police Chief Ronald Pavlik.

Pavlik said the amended policy targets “repeat offenders” who’ve been arrested for these crimes and are usually released the same day to appear for a future court date. He said some of those individuals return back to public transportation and commit similar sex-related and firearm offenses.

A summary of the amended policy, which must now receive full board approval:

• Person charged with a first offense would receive a 14-day suspension with written details on not being able to use Metrorail and Metrobus services.
• Second offense increases to a 30-day suspension.
• Third offense rises to a one-year ban from Metro.

The appeal process must begin within five days and would be handled by outside counsel and responded to within 15 days. A person found guilty would not be refunded for any transit fees.

Pavlik said a person could board a train or bus without automatically being stopped if they have a SmarTrip card because not all riders register them.

“It’s simply another tool for police officers to use,” he said. “I feel as chief of police, that I need to do more I was looking to protect our employees and our riders.”

However, anyone stopped for a particular offense would also face a trespassing charge if it is discovered that person had been previously suspended.

The board reviewed 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 “seems frankly a little bit lax, a little lenient.”

“But this is kind of our first foray into this, so I’m comfortable moving forward with the understanding that if this does prove to be effective, we can potentially look at different penalties down the road once the program’s in place,” said Letourneau, who represents Loudoun County, Virginia.

Before the committee voted, the ACLU of District of Columbia released a statement against the proposal and called it “racially discriminatory” and would punish riders accused of a crime before a conviction.

The statement, in part, from ACLU policy director Nassim Moshiree: “The proposal would unduly impact those who rely on public transit and raises significant due process concerns in stripping people of access to a critical public service — a service they may need to attend court appearances or see a parole officer — based on an arrest, not a conviction, and without an opportunity to be heard by a neutral decision-maker.”

William J. Ford – Washington Informer Staff Writer

I decided I wanted to become a better writer while attending Bowie State University and figured that writing for the school newspaper would help. I’m not sure how much it helped, but I enjoyed it so much I decided to keep on doing it, which I still thoroughly enjoy 20 years later. If I weren’t a journalist, I would coach youth basketball. Actually, I still play basketball, or at least try to play, once a week. My kryptonite is peanut butter. What makes me happy – seeing my son and two godchildren grow up. On the other hand, a bad call made by an official during a football or basketball game makes me throw up my hands and scream. Favorite foods include pancakes and scrambled eggs which I could eat 24-7. The strangest thing that’s ever happened to me, or more accurately the most painful, was when I was hit by a car on Lancaster Avenue in Philadelphia. If I had the power or money to change the world, I’d make sure everyone had three meals a day. And while I don’t have a motto or favorite quote, I continue to laugh which keeps me from driving myself crazy. You can reach me several ways: Twitter @jabariwill, Instagram will_iam.ford2281 or e-mail, wford@washingtoninformer.com

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