Metro is considering a rule to suspend riders accused of sex or weapon-related crimes on its trains and buses, but some organizations say the rule could have a discriminatory impact on Black and brown riders.
The rule change would suspend anyone who takes part in sex-related crimes or has a gun or dangerous weapon on Metro property unless they successfully appeal. A first and second offense would carry a 14-day and 30-day suspension, respectively. A third offense would carry a year-long ban, WMATA says.
The Metro Board of Directors Safety and Operations Committee approved the proposal on Thursday and the full board is expected to vote on it during an upcoming meeting, WMATA says.
Under the proposed rule, authorities could immediately issue a written suspension citation to someone if they believe there was a crime committed. The suspension would exceed 12 hours, WMATA says. No SmarTrip privileges would be suspended.
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The ACLU of the District of Columbia says the policy in its current form could amount to people being punished if they are accused of a crime.
"In our criminal legal system, people are innocent until proven guilty; if they vote for this, WMATA’s unelected board proposes to reverse that presumption and punish people based on accusations alone," the organization said in a statement.
Metro says sex offenses on transit have increased over the past 18 months — possibly because there are fewer riders — and that there are repeat offenders.
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But Metro's Police Cheif Ronald A. Pavlik Jr. said enforcing this new policy would be tough.
David Watkins is a Metro rider who supports the idea.
“You shouldn’t be doing those types of things on the train or in the Metro system period,” he said. “You shouldn’t be carrying dangerous weapons or doing crazy stuff on the Metro. You have to follow the law. It’s as simple as that.”
The ACLU of D.C. disagrees.
“The likely outcome of such a policy is more racially discriminatory stops and frisks and arrests by Metro Transit Police, an agency already known for its excessive force tactics and over policing of Black and brown riders for minor offenses,” policy director Nassim Moshiree said in a statement.
Transit systems in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Chicago already have similar rules.