LA County Sheriff Alex Villaneuva is criticizing a proposal to replace armed metro law enforcement with unarmed, uniformed transit ambassadors.
The sheriff slammed the proposal put forth by the Metro Public Safety Advisory Committee (PSAC), calling the group “the definition of a woke advisory group.” He said the proposal is far from what the average commuter wants, and would endanger the public and put victims of crimes in a confusing situation.
“Any crime that occurs on any bus, any light rail, any subway – the victim would have to figure out who to call from whatever the local agency is, whoever picks up 911 depending on their signal, and figure out who’s jurisdiction it is,” Villanueva said at a media briefing.
The sheriff added that PSAC’s new vision for metro public safety would merely provide an “illusion of security” for commuters.
“They’re flipping the pyramid upside down and now the ‘transit ambassadors’ who are not law enforcement would be the main source of providing the illusion of security,” he said.
PSAC’s proposal would abolish contracts between the transit agency and law enforcement agencies, and plans to reallocate the $75 million in funds to public safety alternatives like mental health and homeless outreach services.
Other law enforcement officials had a similar negative reaction to the proposal, which is to be considered on December 2 by the LA Metro board.
San Gabriel Police Chief Gene Harris, speaking with the Los Angeles County Police Chief’s Association, argued that removing highly trained law enforcement officers will lead to chaos.
“You’re going to take away the entity that is highest-trained, best and specifically trained for transit service response, trained for homeless response and outreach, trained for mental health and outreach and response, and you’re going to eliminate that, and then you’re going to hope that…the 45 agencies along the transit and bus lines can step in and take care of that on a moving train, a moving bus, or a moving target as it were, then we are sadly mistaken,” he said.
PSAC, formed in 2020 in the wake of the George Floyd protests, has an anti-law enforcement stance with interests that are out of line of what the general public wants, according to Villanueva.
“This is the definition of a ‘woke’ advisory group, and of course what’s the recommendation? Let’s get rid of all cops. Literally. There’s an absolute absence of people that represent the average commuter, the average worker.”
Statistics show that LA Metro crimes are on the rise. Villanueva pointed to data showing that LA Metro is the fourth among the nation’s transit lines in violent crime rates behind New York, Chicago, and BART in Northern California. Crimes on transit have increased from 150 incidents in 2019 to 192 in 2020, according to the data.
A high-profile case occurred in October this year after an 28-year-old woman was shot and killed on the Metro Red Line at Hollywood and Vine Station.
According to Metro statistics, crime was actually trending down between 2015 and 2019, with help from law enforcement patrols.
In February of 2020, Metro CEO Phillip A. Washington said: “Our transit system is certainly not immune from some of the issues found in the rest of L.A. County, but we are now beginning to see the tangible benefits of our multi-agency law enforcement model,” a model that may soon be replaced.
Metro released a statement to address the concerns.
We have recommended that our Board approve funding for the remaining six months of our law enforcement contracts with the Los Angeles Police Department, Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department and Long Beach Police Department as well as authorize an extension of up to one-year. We believe this will give Metro’s Public Safety Advisory Committee sufficient time to finalize its long-term recommendations,” the statement read.