Metro Transit Police officer
Metro's board of directors is putting on hold a proposal to suspend riders from the transit system for getting arrested for certain sex and weapons crimes.
The idea was to stop repeat offenders who bring guns onto the Metro system or expose themselves to other riders on trains and buses. The proposal called for a two-week suspension for the first offense, a month-long suspension for second offenses, and up to a year for a third offense.
Several groups like the ACLU, Black Lives Matter DC, and Sunrise Movement pushed back against the idea. In a letter to the board in July, the groups called the policy a "blanket expansion of police power with no oversight," and excoriated the proposal for moving to punish riders for crimes they hadn't yet been convicted of. Metro says it would've used video evidence to verify the crime, and it also planned to have an appeal process.
More than 80 people also sent a template email saying they opposed the program, and several others weighed in against the idea during the public comment period. The Metro Rider Advisory Council also voted against it and board members tasked the RAC with coming up with ways to reduce crime from a rider perspective.
After delaying its vote following pushback, the board was set to formally vote on the ban in early September. Instead, the board had quietly avoided discussing the ban for its last two meetings.
On Thursday, Chairman of the Board Paul Smedberg said they will continue to monitor how similar programs work in other cities before re-scheduling a vote on the issue at a later date.
Matt Letourneau, a member from Virginia, says it's an important issue to address.
"If people perceive that Metro is not safe to ride, they won't ride. They'll find other ways to get where they're going," he said. "I know that we had put some ideas on the table to address this and it received a lot of pushback.
"I thought it was disappointing, the lack of focus on the actual crimes that were being committed and the victims that we had."
This story is from DCist.com, the local news website of WAMU.