The BRU calls on Metro to end it’s Police State on the Buses and Trains
On March 25th, 2021 at MTA board meeting:
Vote No on any increase in MTA police budget
Work to terminate the existing police contract as rapidly as possible
No Police on MTA buses and Trains
Stop MTA Attacks on Black Passengers
The Bus Riders Union was approached with a proposal to increase the MTA police budget by $35 million instead of the proposed $110 million. This was proposed as part of a comprehensive package including an early termination of the original contract by six months and an end to deployment of any police on MTA buses and trains except when called in security emergencies. We felt this was a very positive move in the right direction. But after thought and discussion, we understood that there was no need to tie an increase in the police budget, at any level, to an early termination of the contract and no police on the buses and trains.
The MTA police budget, already $650 million over 5 years, is obscene and racist in its intent and impact. The BRU, calling for no police on the buses and trains, cannot support any increase in essentially a “cost overrun” budget where the police play a negative role in our society and in the MTA system.
There is no need to “link” any positive developments to a negative one, no need to ask groups to support any increase in the police budget at a time we need to dramatically reduce it, as a trade-off for some very positive developments that must be carried out for their own good reasons—cutting short the MTA police contract and stopping the deployment of police on MTA buses and trains.
What follows below is one of many discussions the BRU is asking our allies to engage about the MTA’s long history of abusing and criminalizing its passengers—55% Latin@, 20% Black, 60% Latina and Black women, and 80% or more profoundly poor.
We can’t support any “additional funds” for police.
The MTA police budget by its definition is an attack on its own passengers. Again, the idea of criminalizing Black and Latin@, often women, always very low-income riders for just breathing is morally and objectively wrong.
The MTA has created a false climate of fear by “asking” bus and train riders if they feel “safe” and clearly encouraging the view that one’s fellow passengers are the problem.
The MTA policing policies are anti-Black—with 50% to 60% of all tickets and arrests inflicted upon Black passengers in a grotesque example of racial profiling and abuse.
In reality, the problems on the bus, with a few exceptions, are normal cultural and behavioral conflicts among low-income, houseless, working people who are running late to jobs that do not pay or families that urgently need help, speaking many different languages. Given those stresses, in fact, most passengers treat each other with respect. We do not want armed police, unarmed police, or anyone who is there to attack, disrespect, criminalize, fine, insult our members.
Who are the Bus Riders?
Look at any social service union—SEIU, AFSME, UNITE/HERE. Their members ride the bus. Look at the 650,000 LAUSD Students. Look at Inner City Struggle, Community Coalition, Black Lives Matter L.A., Students Deserve, and Labor/Community Strategy Center, Taking Action Social Justice Clubs and yes, the wonderful BUS RIDERS UNION and you will find your members, your mother, father, brother, sister, children, grandparents.
The MTA and the liberal Democratic Party establishment have gotten away with murder for 30 years raising fares, cutting service, passing sales tax after sales tax so that now, every time you spend $100 in L.A. the MTA takes $2 of your money to build its rail projects and criminalize its riders. Why should high school students, domestic workers, janitors, teachers’ aides ride and live in fear of the MTA and its police state? Enough is enough. Basta! Ya!
Passenger Service Workers yes! Police No!
We would be open in future budgets to the hiring of “community service workers” on the bus to facilitate bus/train riders experience. They would have no capacity or intention to write tickets or in any way “discipline” riders. Instead, they would help people with seats and packages, translate languages between passengers, work with the bus driver/bus rider interface and, when needed, create more structure, and yes, calm on the bus by negotiating with people to defuse tensions. This would require the hiring of people with social service and community service histories.
The root of the MTA police state is its grotesque anti-Black criminalization of its own passengers with “violations” that are rooted in the “Black codes” that made former slaves criminal for just standing in the street as “loitering.” Now, the MTA even expands their violations to “odors.”
And again, the entire police state mentality and reality at MTA is again and again anti-Black. Each “rule” from the MTA plantation is just a pretext and pretense to make life a living hell for all MTA passengers, but especially for Black passengers. Read these rules to see all the ways the MTA is so hostile to normal human behavior.
The following acts are prohibited in Metro facilities and vehicles:
- Eating, drinking, smoking, or carrying a lit cigar, cigarette, or pipe, except in designated areas permitting that activity.22
- Placing chewed gum onto any surface in a Metro facility or vehicle other than into a trash receptacle.
- Drinking or possessing in an open container an alcoholic beverage, except in designated areas where there is notice that drinking alcohol is permitted and all required permits have been obtained. Permits from Metro will only be granted if part of a scheduled special event, if the proposed location is not in use for transit purposes during the event.22
- Possessing an illegal drug or substance.23
- Being under the influence of alcohol, a drug, a controlled substance, toluene, or any combination of those items, and unable to care for one’s own safety or the safety of others, or interfering with the use of a Metro facility or vehicle.24
- Creating a public nuisance or a health hazard by dropping food other than in a proper waste disposal receptacle.25
- F. Smoking is also not allowed within 20 feet of any Metro facility entrance, exit or operable window. 266-05-120 Loitering.
- Loitering is prohibited in Metro facilities and vehicles.27
- Loitering includes the following:
- Storing personal property in a Metro facility or vehicle.
- Camping or sleeping in a Metro facility or vehicle when not riding for a transportation purpose.28
- Remaining in a Metro facility or vehicle without lawful transportation purpose or refusing to provide identification.29”
- A person may not be in a Metro facility or vehicle with an unavoidable grossly repulsive odor so extreme it causes a nuisance, unreasonably interferes with the use, operation, or enjoyment of the Metro facilities or vehicles for Metro representatives or patrons, or creates an unsafe condition.31 Notwithstanding the foregoing, this subsection shall not apply to persons with odors directly related to a disability or medical condition unless the odor is so severely disruptive that it interferes with the use or operation of the Metro facility or vehicle by Metro representatives or patrons, or creates direct threat or an unsafe condition.
- Extreme odors may arise from a variety of sources, including one’s body, possessions, clothing, food, chemicals or accompanying animals.
These codes of conduct have led to fines, court appearances, and yes, if not paid, criminal charges for not paying the fine or showing up in MTA court.
This entire system must be dismantled beyond the police budget, but we start from there.
As bus riders we are well aware that there are profound social problems among the oppressed caused and exacerbated by hunger, hopelessness, police abuse, houselessness, mental illness, and alcohol, drug use and addiction. These are not easy problems to solve but the MTA, which has always had complete contempt for its passengers, has in its own way helped to exacerbate these issues—raising fares, cutting service, building boondoggle rail projects to advance a gentrifying, racist urban plan, and then policing its own passengers for “fare evasion” (imprisonment for debt and poverty) and issuing 50% to 60% of all tickets and arrests to Black passengers. It’s now time for the MTA board to repair the harm it has caused.
So again, we urge a No Vote on Any Increase in the already grotesque and odious MTA police budget with LAPD, LA Sheriff’s Department, and Long Beach Police Department.
The Bus Riders Union calls on MTA to implement the following initiatives in our campaign for urban transformation:
End to the existing MTA police contract.
No Police on Metro buses and trains
Doubling bus service now.
Stop MTA Attacks on and Racial Profiling of Black Passengers
Permanent No Fare, Free Public Transportation beyond COVID restrictions
Implement a 24/7 free, zero emission, bus and rail system with the most frequent service
Cut L.A.’s greenhouse gas emissions by 50% by 2025—No cars in LA beginning with MTA and LA City and County closing entire streets to auto traffic—Bus Only Lanes enforced, auto free zones, auto free rush hours
Eric Mann and Barbara Lott-Holland, co-chairs, Bus Riders Union
Channing Martinez, director of organizing, Labor/Community Strategy Center