Metro’s board of directors plan to discuss and possibly vote July 29 on a proposal that would temporary ban commuters accused of sex offenses and crimes involved with 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 doubled in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.
Pavlik summarized the amended policy focuses on “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.
Here’s a summary of the amended policy the board’s safety and operations committee recommended for approval Thursday, July 15:
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 agency would provide for an appeal process within five days and handled by outside counsel and responded to in 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 a person has a SmartTrip card because not all commuters 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, individuals detained for an offense later identified as suspended would also face a trespassing charge.
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 “seem frankly a little bit lax, a little lenient.”
“But this is 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, Va.
Several transit riders disagreed with the policy and posted comments on Twitter.
“Say what you like about how necessary something like this proposed policy is, but by its definition, it would disproportionately affect those already being subjected to disproportionate policing at the hands of MTPD — and that’s not necessary,” said James Pizzuro, a software engineer in Northern Virginia.
Before the committee voted, the ACLU of District of Columbia released a statement against the proposal and called it “racially discriminatory,” adding that it would punish riders accused of a crime before a conviction.
Here’s part of a statement 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.”

Coverage for the Washington Informer includes Prince George’s County government, school system and some state of Maryland government. Received an award in 2019 from the D.C. Chapter of the Society of...

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