CommunityWilliam J. Ford

Metro Delays Vote on Proposed Ban of Riders

A discussion and possible vote on a proposal to ban Metro commuters arrested for sex-related or firearms offenses won’t happen until at least Sept. 9 after the agency’s board of directors decided Thursday to postpone the discussion.

“The board requested additional information from staff and jurisdictions before moving to a vote,” Metro spokesman Ian Janetta said in an email.

A review of the plan came during a committee session last month when Metro Transit Police Chief Ronald Pavlik said offenses such as indecent exposure on Metrorail and buses doubled when the pandemic affected the region last year.

Pavlik summarized the amended policy as involving “repeat offenders” who’ve been arrested for these crimes and 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. Another reason for these acts, officials claim, is that there are fewer commuters on the trains ands fewer eyewitnesses.

A transit officer would be able to enforce the ban if a person gets caught and finds that the suspect had been arrested for a sexual act or dangerous weapon charge.

According to the policy, a person charged with a first offense would receive a 14-day suspension with written details on not being allowed on a train or bus.

A second offense results in a 30-day suspension and a third offense triggers a one-year ban from Metro.

The agency would provide for an appeal process within five days and handled by outside counsel and responded in 15 days. A person found guilty would not be refunded for any transit fees.

Transit advocates criticized the policy not only as discriminatory, but also would allow transit police to violate the due process rights of transit users.

Defund MPD, a group that has advocated cutting the District’s police budget by 50 percent in three years, staged a rally July 28 near the Northwest home of Tom Bulger, a lobbyist who serves on the Metro board as an alternate director for the District.

The group posted a video on its Twitter page that included a chant, “We will not stop!”

Defund MDP joined several D.C. organizations in a letter-writing campaign with more than 1,000 sent to the agency formally called the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority.

“As residents of the DMV who depend on critical public infrastructure like WMATA, we refuse to give police this authority,” according to the group which calls itself actionnetwork.org. “This rule would expand the power of police and infringe on our rights by blocking access to critical public services without due process.”

Natacia Knapper, managing organizer for the ACLU of D.C., said in a statement Friday, July 30 another 1,500 Metro customers relayed messages to urge a “no” vote.

“This proposal lacked the most basic details – such as how it would be enforced – and the board failed to provide any evidence that such a policy would deter unwanted behavior,” she said. “We urge the Metro board to consider proven alternatives – such as hiring unarmed transit ambassadors – to increase safety in the system.”

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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