Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Transit Police Officers Vote No Confidence in Chief

Metro cops have lost confidence in their leader, Chief of Police Michael Taborn, sources familiar with the force said. Taborn has been chief since March 2008.

Two, separate sources confirm an overwhelming no confidence vote was made last Wednesday at a union meeting at the Fraternal Order of Police's DC Lodge #1.

The vote comes as security on Metro has been scrutinized in the wake of bag searches, high-profile assaults and fights in the system and an 18 percent spike in serious crimes.

When asked if the vote would lead to any real change, one source said "Probably not. Taborn does a really good job of making those above him believe everything is hunky dory on the Metro."

The source added that the Metro Transit Police Department is "not a comfortable place to work" and that "camaraderie is gone."

The source painted a bleak picture of the force's morale and effectiveness. It's a picture, they say, Taborn should have been conveying to the Metro Board of Directors for a long time but has not.

"There are a lot of numbers being fudged," the source said. "The manpower they say is there is not there."

The source said for such a small department, reported by Metro to number 420, the Metro Transit Police Department is extremely top heavy, with six people effectively working as deputy chiefs. The DC Metropolitan Police Department, which is many times larger, has four.

"[That structure] removes Taborn from responsibility," the source said. "There's too many chiefs and not enough Indians, literally."

Having so many highly-paid deputy chiefs takes up money that could allow more cops to walk the beat, the source said, adding that effectively, at any given time, there's only one patrolling cop per four stations inside the Metro system.

The source said because cops are spread so thinly, criminals know very well where the cops are and where they're not. Making it worse, the source added, is that Metro is too slow to analyze crime statistics (Metro stats) and fails to react with alacrity when trends are spotted.

The source also said that the force is pressured by Metro to focus too much on a customer service facade as opposed to policing. This undermines effectiveness, the source claimed.

"They look at us just like bus drivers and train operators," they said. "For example, when we stop or give a summons to a juvenile, the parent will often call and complain, and instead of letting that parent know what was going on, the officer who cited the kid will be questioned, which is like a slap on the wrist. It also eats up resources."

The source said the force is desperately in need of fresh ideas and leadership from people who have not been brought up all the way through the Metro Transit Police, adding that current leadership is "not smart, fit or experienced enough to make the Transit Police in to a real police department."

Taborn spent 28 years as a Metro transit cop, then did a 6-year stint with the Federal Transit Administration before coming back to Metro as chief.

The source was quick to point out that some of the problems facing the force are outside its control, saying "in DC, the judicial system is so messed up that [criminals are] getting slapped on the wrist for violent crime. They'll lock a kid up, but before we can finish the paperwork, the kid is back on the street."

Other items:
Metro sues its own insurance company (WaPo)
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