Story by Charlotte Dekle and Alison Wang
Photo by Erin Lee
The City Council approved a letter of opposition to the defunding of law enforcement at Metro stations at its meeting on Wednesday, Dec. 1. This letter comes as a result of a recommendation made by the Metro Public Safety Advisory Committee (PSAC) for the greater Los Angeles area to fully remove uniformed law enforcement from Metro operations.
In February 2017, Metro approved a law enforcement contract with the Los Angeles County Sheriff, Los Angeles Police Department and Long Beach Police Department. The three departments were contracted to provide policing services on rail and bus lines. In June 2017 then-councilmember Diana Mahmud and then-mayor Michael Cacciotti requested a letter be sent to Metro addressing the lack of visible law enforcement on South Pasadena’s rail and bus lines.
Mayor Mahmud’s letter has since been revised and presented to the council. The letter outlines the primary reasons for the opposition, ranging from delayed crime response to lack of resources.
“It is clear that local municipalities and jurisdictions would face immense challenges if Metro were to reduce the presence of law enforcement on rail lines, platforms, and buses,” the letter reads.
PSAC was formed following the murder of George Floyd by police in 2020 to reform the current policies and reallocate resources from policing to community safety alternatives. The board, consisting of community members, alternates, and ex-official employees, incorporates Community Safety and Community Working Services, advocacy organizations, and ridership organizations to address community needs.
The November 18 proposal attempted to re-allocate the $75 million intended for the police contract to an unvetted alternative. According to the proposal, the job of policing at Metro stations will also be reallocated to local police station jurisdictions.
“[Our] proposal is not to eradicate the police, but rather to have Metro not pay for a special contract,” the proposal states. “Instead, responding to issues on the Metro system would be the responsibility of the individual municipal police departments as part of their standard tasks.”
During the public comment section of the proceedings, resident and local activist John Srebalus expressed his disapproval regarding the council’s action with an impassioned speech about the racial and economic inequities of Metro policing.
“You misrepresent the PSAC when you say they aim to fully defund law enforcement,” Srebalus said. “This is a dog whistle and yet another flavor of your resistance to a policy that dares to make life better for the unhoused people and POC. Half of all people cited on Metro are Black but only 18% of all Metro riders are Black…The PSAC still plans to employ peace officers aboard Metro transit. These service oriented officers will in fact be better equipped for situations that unfold on our transit system.”
However, Mayor Pro Tem Cacciotti articulated that the proposal presented was $75 million allocated towards law enforcement or nothing.
“We really agree, there needs to be a new model and more resources, but the decision we were given on short notice was zero funding for law enforcement. I can’t accept it,” Caccoiti said.
Cacciotti, Mahmud and councilmember Jon Primuth all echoed the sentiment of the lack of police presence leading to unchecked crime. Police Chief Brian Solinski also presented details of the kinds of metro-related calls that the SPPD receives.
“653 calls with the police department going on, specifically related to the [metro lines],” Solinksi said. “It includes a lot of suspicious people, but it also includes assault, assault with deadly weapons, suspicious death; a number of things that really take resources away.”
The action was unanimously passed and will be submitted for consideration within Metro’s larger committee. If approved, the proposal will eliminate all law enforcement from Metro stations along the Yellow Line, including at the South Pasadena stop.