Monday, April 4, 2011

Transit Cop Patrols Shifted to DC, Away from MD, VA

Unsuck DC Metro has learned that the Metro Transit Police Department has been detailing patrols, normally assigned to Virginia and Maryland, to DC in order to increase presence in pervasive trouble spots like Gallery Place and L'Enfant Plaza.

Riders we talked to had mixed feelings.

"I understand there's more crime in DC, but there have been plenty of crimes in Maryland, including a full-on brawl in Bethesda and a recent assault," said one rider. "I don't know if it's fair that the tax money I pay to Maryland goes to solving DC problems."

A rider in Virginia echoed those sentiments and wondered if criminals would just move to where the police are no longer present.

Another rider said that while they lived in Virginia, they changed trains at L'Enfant and generally agreed with the move.

A source close to the MTPD didn't criticize the move, but they wondered how Virginia and Maryland riders would feel about moving cops normally assigned to patrol Maryland and Virginia to DC.

"This is more a simple lack of resource problem," they said. "The jurisdictions need to step up and realize that if you want services you have to pay for it."

Metro would not "discuss publicly the specifics of deployment of our law enforcement resources," but added that it's important to "keep in mind that the riders of our system travel across jurisdictional lines. For example, a customer of City/County A may work in City/County B and need to pass through high crime station X, so that customer is actually benefiting."

Mary Hynes, Arlington County Board member and Virginia principal member on the Metro Board had the following to say:
The safety of riders in the system is paramount - whether it is in Virginia, DC or Maryland. Recent incidents in some of the DC stations have the potential to discourage Virginia riders from using the system to access their jobs or other activities in the city. I think that Metro police are doing the right thing to aggressively interrupt the climate that has contributed to the recent incidents.

I have been assured that MTPD regular patrols in Virginia have not been reduced. It's my understanding that MTPD specialty units are being appropriately deployed to respond to this critical regional problem.
The source close to the police department said a major problem on the force is that a lot of resources are tied up at the top and are being used in ways that don't necessarily help prevent crime.
[The Metro Transit Police] have well over 420 “sworn officers” but that includes four or five Deputy Chiefs. DC police has about the same amount of deputy chiefs, and they have ten times as many officers. MTPD’s deputy chiefs sit around the office getting coffee for one another and talking about how they are doing a great job at preventing terrorism. Taborn added one a year or two ago that he calls the “executive officer.” It’s like Taborn thinks he’s running an aircraft carrier.

They have another 20 to 25 captains and lieutenants. Most of these are not people who are actually managing police patrol operations. Think about the money tied up in bureaucrats for such a small department A deputy chief makes about $120,000 per year.

They also have 50 sergeants. Only about 25 of them are actually involved in police work. A few more do things like run the training programs and manage the K-9 crew and the SWAT team. The others get coffee for the deputy chiefs. And they are really good at it!

But, wait, there’s more! They have about seven retired police officers who came back as civilians to do the same jobs they did as police officers, except now they get a pension AND a salary.
The source wanted to add that riders should give the officers they see on patrol a break, adding that complaints that officers are sometimes seen hanging out together.
I dare someone to find me one workplace in the entire city where employees don’t spend a small portion of the day talking to co-workers for a few minutes- maybe about what’s going on at work, maybe about a little gossip. They are police officers, not robots. The complainers don’t seem to talk as much about the good work the officers do; instead they just complain that they saw a handful of them talking. For how long? Five minutes, even 10? Is that really that big of a deal?
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