Network News

X My Profile
View More Activity
Transportation Home  |  Discussions  |  Traffic  |  Columns  |  Q&A     |      Twitter |    Facebook   |  phone Alerts
Posted at 9:00 AM ET, 02/ 9/2011

Bag checks are on Metro agenda

By Robert Thomson

The Metro board's Customer Service and Operations Committee has scheduled a discussion of the police bag inspection program for its Thursday morning meeting. This is the board's first scheduled public discussion of the new policy imposed by the transit authority in December.

The committee meeting starts immediately after the conclusion of the finance committee meeting, which begins at 9 a.m. Thursday.

The random inspections program is listed as an "information item" on the committee agenda. This is not a public hearing involving riders. The only time riders have had a chance to comment on this important policy change came during an early January meeting held by the Metro Riders' Advisory Council. About a hundred people turned out for that -- far more than attend most hearings about fare increases and service cuts. More than 30 of them spoke against the policy. The council then called on the board to suspend the inspections program.

The board, on the other hand, remained mute on the topic at its December meeting when General Manager Richard Sarles announced that transit police and TSA officers would immediately start the random bag checks.

Why is this new policy a big deal and worth a board review? Because by imposing the inspections on riders, the transit authority has fundamentally changed its relationship with its customers. All will now be considered terrorist suspects. Some will be selected randomly to prove their innocence through property inspections before being allowed to enter the transit system.

That's a matter of policy as well as procedure, and the board is Metro's policy-making panel.

The transit authority said this policy change is not based on any specific, credible threat to the transit system, but there is federal money available to pay for the inspections program.

Transit officials and police describe this new procedure as "another tool in our toolbox." They have not described the random inspections as "necessary" to maintain security. Transit police have used many other procedures to successfully protect the Metro system before this new policy was imposed on riders in December.

This is the one procedure that many riders have said they are deeply concerned about.

By Robert Thomson  | February 9, 2011; 9:00 AM ET
Categories:  Metro, Transportation Politics  | Tags:  Dr. Gridlock, bag inspections  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Metrorail death ruled accidental
Next: Metro's union on safety progress

Comments

How many terrorist plots have been foiled by the even more intrusive TSA inspections at airports? None. Is there any reason to believe that random searches of Metro passengers would materially increase the security of the subway system against terrorist attacks? Of course not. This was a stupid policy and needs to be rescinded. It's time for this country to stop cringing in fear of an attack.

Posted by: jlhare1 | February 9, 2011 10:54 AM | Report abuse

Why don't you worry about how to have one trouble-free/malfunction-free day on the subway?

Just one. I dare ya. I double dare ya!

Fix the freakin' escalators!!!

"Bag check"? Puh-leeeze. Who are you kidding? You gonna check each one?

Talk to Israel before you do silly things like this. They have about 60-years plus experience of dealing with terrorists.

Typical clueless management. Let's worry about everything BUT the real important stuff that affects Metro commuters EVERY day.

Posted by: TaxiDriver | February 9, 2011 12:20 PM | Report abuse

"but there is federal money available to pay for the inspections program"

Kind of gives you some insight into the bone-headed way Metro makes some of it's decisions doesn't it? Just because there is money available, Metro will implement a useless, wasteful policy.

Here's a question: What happens when the Federal money goes away? Metro won't rescind the policy, because that would mean having to lose "security". So it becomes yet another pointless, useless piece of Metro that we riders and taxpayers will have to continue to support well into the future.

There is no point to this policy, no overall strategy, no credible threat (by Metro's own admission). Yet they're going to implement it anyway, because it's another way to get money. Did Metro catch the mastermind who wanted to blow up several stations on the Blue/Orange line a while back through random bag checks? No. They did it through standard police work, in partnership with other local agencies. That's how to do it. Not by security theater.

My wife doesn't worry about me dying on Metro because of a terrorist threat, she worries about me dying on Metro because their system is completely unsafe, their personnel are apathetic at worst, untrained at best, their management incompetent, and their infrastructure unreliable.

Posted by: mika_england | February 9, 2011 12:23 PM | Report abuse

This just makes idiot fat cats feel better. The head of Homeland Security gets to talk about a "new initiative" or whatever in the fight againts terrorism.

"Please report any suspicious activity."

I love that.

"Security is everyone's business" says the little girl voice over the Metro PA. Uh huh. Shut up & tell me why the Blue Line is late.

"Is that your crumpled, dusty brown paper bag lying under that bench, Sir?"

"No. Leave me alone."

"SECURITY!!!"

If someone wants to do something to disrupt/attack the Metro they can do it. They can put something on the tracks of all the lines in the middle of the night. Nothing is going to stop them. Especially if they have no fear of being killed in the process.

Metro managers are being paid big bucks to do what? How has the system improved? Every day it's the same old thing. If the top managers are riding the subway on a daily basis, they're hiding. With good reason.

"We regret the inconvenience & appreciate your patience. Thank you for being a sucker. I mean, "valued customer."

Posted by: TaxiDriver | February 9, 2011 1:29 PM | Report abuse

NYC started doing this years ago. If you are chosen for a random bag inspection and don't want your bag searched, you are free to leave the subway station and find another form of transit. As long as the inspections are at subway entrances and don't occur once someone is within the system, I don't have a problem with the policy.

Posted by: Fletch_F_Fletch | February 9, 2011 3:43 PM | Report abuse

This is totally ridiculous. The biggest meance on Metro, besides Metro's inattentive drivers and serial signal malfunctions, is the other passengers, and they are not terrorists but thieves and thugs and bullies. More eyes on them, please, and less pontificating about "keeping us safe" by confiscating cell phones or whatever this is going to lead to.

Posted by: bigolbose | February 9, 2011 4:00 PM | Report abuse

This is totally ridiculous. The biggest meance on Metro, besides Metro's inattentive drivers and serial signal malfunctions, is the other passengers, and they are not terrorists but thieves and thugs and bullies. More eyes on them, please, and less pontificating about "keeping us safe" by confiscating cell phones or whatever this is going to lead to.

Posted by: bigolbose | February 9, 2011 4:00 PM | Report abuse

This is totally ridiculous. The biggest meance on Metro, besides Metro's inattentive drivers and serial signal malfunctions, is the other passengers, and they are not terrorists but thieves and thugs and bullies. More eyes on them, please, and less pontificating about "keeping us safe" by confiscating cell phones or whatever this is going to lead to.

Posted by: bigolbose | February 9, 2011 4:02 PM | Report abuse

FYI, Fletch_F_Fletch, they're talking about doing this at bus stops as well.

But the big issue for me is that these searches will be performed by Metro Transit Police -- by law enforcement officers with arrest authority -- not as administrative searches done by someone like an airport TSA screener who does not possess that power.

Even if you aren't concerned about the damaging precedent to the Constitution's Fourth Amendment protections caused by giving any police the ability to stop and search anyone at anytime without requiring probable cause, (As someone who swore an oath to preserve, protect and defend that Constitution and who considers that pledge to be a lifetime commitment I am enormously disturbed by it) then just focus on the fact that this policy will not work. It is nothing but an ineffective waste of resources.

Not only does Metro propose treating the hundreds of thousands of daily Metro rail and bus passengers as Guilty until proven Innocent, some "bad guy" who's not allowed to enter a subway station or board a bus after refusing a bag search will simply walk to the next stop. Unless the plan is to put checkpoints at every bus stop and every train station faregate and search every single passenger, in which case the bad guy would just use their weapon at the search point.

And the day this country, over my active opposition, becomes that kind of police state is the day I flee somewhere else and request asylum.

Posted by: greggwiggins | February 9, 2011 4:06 PM | Report abuse

I think the searches are unconstitutional and useless. We are guaranteed freedom of movement/travel unless authorities have probable cause to detain us. I do not have to allow police to search my car during a traffic stop; why should Transit police get to check my bag on a public transit system, paid for by my tax dollars, when I have done nothing to warrant suspicion other than I happen to be there with a bag? WMATA even admits that the searches are "not based on any specific, credible threat to the transit system." Where is the probable cause to search bags? And what if I don't have a bag? My winter coat goes from head (hood) to mid-calf. It has 7 pockets of various sizes in various places (most hidden) and is large enough that I could probably hide a small child under it, much less explosives (if I were so inclined, which I'm not). But people in oversize, baggy clothing/coats aren't searched. The searches are useless, from a "who's carrying what" perspective, and, as mentioned by another poster, will not prevent anyone who is planning an attack from carrying it out, either from another station or at the search point. The searches are: (1) just a chance for the Board to try to look good, (2) an erosion of our rights, and (3) scare tactics so that the board has (4) a reason to spend Federal money that would be of better use elswhere. They're betting that most people would rather give in than fight the searches and/or stop using Metro.

Posted by: IndolentCin | February 9, 2011 4:49 PM | Report abuse

My point is that the Constitutionality of such searches must have been litigated years ago, when NYC implemented them (at least at subway entrances). (The NYPD conducts the searches.) And the NYCLU was likely involved and likely raised a substantial (yet unsuccessful) challenge to the searches. I'm not saying I love Metro's new policy, just that much of this ground has already been hoed and that NYC implemented a similar policy over many of, or exactly, the same criticisms voiced here.

Posted by: Fletch_F_Fletch | February 9, 2011 5:09 PM | Report abuse

The words above written by readers of this article speak the discontent of the people on this issue. It would be appreciated by all the people, for the people if federal money available to pay for the inspections program was used in a less invasive format, such as better, more effective training for the Metrorail police.

We cannot let Metro be brazen and think they are giving this search responsibility to knowledgeable, experienced officers of the law who have in depth knowledge and experience about terrorist threats, techniques, methods and mindsets.

After more than 20 years experience riding metrobus and metrorail commuting I have many experiences of poor choices by metrorail police. The skills and experience of the Metrorail police are limited by many constraints (pay level, training, and experience) and must be considered and developed appropriately for the actions they are responsible for to be effective.

An effort to take the proper steps to plan and develop a terrorist protection program would be a wiser more mindful first step than random searches

Just doing random searching of the bags of the everyday metrorail riders and tourists will not be effective. Metro needs to respect this. It would make much more sense to work together with the people. Getting all the people involved and actually developing a cooperative plan for Metrorail police for internal terrorist prevention with a better refined dialog and program for metroriders as well would be a better approach.

The people need to see actions by Metro that we can trust as the best choice. Not just a hardline decision. If Metrorail doesn’t re-establish a solid foundation with it riders and educate its officers such an action as random searches (that by many are considered to be invasive and offensive actions) will escalate our mistrust of WMATA to de-rail metro ridership even further.

Their action, will speak louder than their words.

Posted by: FRGasper | February 9, 2011 8:34 PM | Report abuse

I live in N. Va, less than 1 mile from an Orange Line stop, and I work in NW DC, about half a mile from 2 stops. I used to take Metro all the time. Once Metro announced that entering a Metro station was tantamount to a consent to search, I stopped using it. I drive a 2002 Ford F-350 with a 7.3 litre Diesel, get about 17mpg on a good day, and I drive alone.

While this policy is in place, I won't use metro.

Posted by: dangfitz | February 9, 2011 8:45 PM | Report abuse

I live in N. Va, less than 1 mile from an Orange Line stop, and I work in NW DC, about half a mile from 2 stops. I used to take Metro all the time. Once Metro announced that entering a Metro station was tantamount to a consent to search, I stopped using it. I drive a 2002 Ford F-350 with a 7.3 litre Diesel, get about 17mpg on a good day, and I drive alone.

While this policy is in place, I won't use metro.

Posted by: dangfitz | February 9, 2011 8:55 PM | Report abuse

Folks, this is unlawful search and seizure, pure and simple. Who cares how noble the purpose (and in this case, the arguments don't stand scrutiny); it's a great diminishment of our freedom. As many have said, put the police to work STOPPING CRIME. I ride metro every day, and it has been a VERY long time since I've seen a metro transit cop on a train or platform. Where are they hiding?

Posted by: JuniusPublicus | February 9, 2011 9:42 PM | Report abuse

I am fed up with this police state garbage.

What happened to "probable cause"?

What happened to "warrant required"?

If one plane blew up every week for an entire year, that is still less than 1% of deaths caused by auto accidents. The garbage put forth by Homeland Security is 100% waste of time and money.

The TSA is a joke with all the pilots of all airlines. The TSA is universally despised by all of the flight crew. Everyone in the airport thinks it's an effing joke.

Honestly, why are we doing this? People who fly every week for their jobs think it's pure stupidity.

The only idiots who want the stupid TSA to do their crap is people who never fly, or fly once or twice in a lifetime and/or are of below average intelligence.

We had a whopping ZERO, as in NO incident at all. So the TSA butt-munchers are bored and want to CYA so they create non existent threats so they can feel up people on trains now to keep their meaningless jobs?

Stop this stupidity. I would like to call them Gestapo but the Gestapo were really scary - these TSA and Homeland clown belong in the circus with their theatre!

Before we really turn into a police state by pure bureaucracy, stop these idiots. Please. I mean it. This is beyond idiotic moronic debased fear-mongering brainless activity. Stop them now before it's too late.

I don't want to "show my papers" to croos the border between states. Or boarding the plane. Or boarding the train. Or boarding the bus. Or eing stopped randomly on the street.

Really. Stop them and disband this madness now.

Those who give up their liberty for more security neither deserve liberty nor security.

Posted by: today123 | February 10, 2011 12:04 AM | Report abuse

And sorry for the misspellings in my previous post. I should have proof read it before I clicked on submit.

Posted by: today123 | February 10, 2011 12:09 AM | Report abuse

Seems judges (where these searches have been found legal) have caved under the "these searches are to keep you safe" BS. Since you are going to be treated as a suspect, demand your rights as a suspect. Demand to know under which law (not policy) these searches are being conducted(specifics.) If you are a suspect you are assumed innocent until proven guilty, which can only be determined by a judge or jury, not some TSA or other LE officer. Unfortunately, the people will cave, just as they did elsewhere, and your rights will be further eroded. Also, would these searches be conducted if there wasn't federal money?

Posted by: thomasp11 | February 10, 2011 8:06 AM | Report abuse

These boneheaded so-called "searches" serve the same purpose as the abusive practices at the airport: Power. Control. They aren't about security, none of this is about security. They're about grooming an already apathetic populace to accept ever more invasive, ever more intrusive practices. Every time we acquiesce, to every new "security" procedure that comes down the pike, we just make it easier for our overlords to impose another, and another, and another.

"I won't stop flying! I can't be inconvenienced! I won't speak up for myself! Of course I'll bend over and spread 'em in the name of security! Of course they can search my bags! Anything To Keep Me Safe!"

Yes, we are headed into a police state. And the sheeple just go along with it. Because most of the population, like most of the Congress, aren't citizens at all. They're cowards. They're not willing to fight for our rights -- hell, they barely recognize we even have rights. They just go along to get along. Until one day, they wake up and discover they have NO rights anymore. Then there'll be a great hue and cry. "Oh, woe is me! What happened?!"

What happened, dimwits, is you got the government you deserved. You didn't bother to stand up for yourself when you had a chance, and now you have none. Oh, well.

Posted by: BaltoGal | February 10, 2011 9:02 AM | Report abuse

Fletch_F_Fletch, the NYPD was sued in August 2005 (MacWade v. Kelly is the case) and the judge's finding that the police deserved a special exemption from the Fourth Amendment is under appeal. In other words, the legality of subway searches in New York is still being litigated more than five years later. Does Metro really want to set itself up for that sort of time-consuming and expensive legal fight?

Posted by: greggwiggins | February 10, 2011 9:25 AM | Report abuse

Post a Comment

We encourage users to analyze, comment on and even challenge washingtonpost.com's articles, blogs, reviews and multimedia features.

User reviews and comments that include profanity or personal attacks or other inappropriate comments or material will be removed from the site. Additionally, entries that are unsigned or contain "signatures" by someone other than the actual author will be removed. Finally, we will take steps to block users who violate any of our posting standards, terms of use or privacy policies or any other policies governing this site. Please review the full rules governing commentaries and discussions.




characters remaining

 
 
RSS Feed
Subscribe to The Post

© 2011 The Washington Post Company