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King County Executive orders Metro Transit to review polices that restrict transit security guards from intervening in criminal activity

King County Executive Dow Constantine has ordered Metro Transit to review policies that restrict unarmed transit security guards from intervening physically in fights or other criminal activity, following a disturbing chain of events involving the assault and robbery of a teenage girl in the Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel on Jan. 28.

“Public safety is our top priority. I am appalled by the sight of uniformed guards standing by while a person was kicked and beaten,” said Executive Constantine. “I have ordered a full review of all operating polices that govern Metro’s contract with civilian security guards to determine what changes must be made. People have an expectation of safety when riding public transit, and we must take every measure we can to assure that.”

“The events surrounding this incident are troubling, and the video images distressing,” said Metro Transit General Manager Kevin Desmond. “The County Executive has ordered us to work with the Sheriff’s Office to review the circumstances surrounding this incident and seek advice from other security experts to determine whether we need to change our security protocols,” added Desmond.

To augment Metro’s transit police force, it contracts with a civilian firm, Olympic Security Services, Inc., to provide transit security throughout its system. According to Metro policies that govern that contract, unarmed security guards are instructed not to intervene when witnessing suspicious behavior or criminal activity, but to “observe and report” and radio the Metro Transit Control Center, which relays requests for assistance to the appropriate law-enforcement agencies.

In addition to contracting with a private security firm, Metro contracts with the King County Sheriff’s Office for 68 commissioned officers to provide law enforcement as the Metro Transit Police.

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