Who patrols the trains in Santa Monica? Right now, that’s the job of the LASD. But if the Sheriff’s threats to remove his deputies from LA Metro come to pass, it’s not clear what agency will fill the gap. The latest information provided by the Santa Monica Police Department seems to indicate they may be willing to step in, but so far nothing is set in stone.

LA Metro — the agency that governs the Expo Line and other light rail, subway and bus services across LA County — is being asked to prepare for the potential removal of sheriff’s deputies from its more than 500 miles of rail track, weeks after LA County Sheriff Alex Villanueva issued an ultimatum stating he would no longer offer LASD services on the network unless the Sheriff’s Department was given full custody of security on LA Metro. 

Since the Expo Line’s Santa Monica stations first opened in 2016, LASD has provided security there, stationing deputies on the Downtown platform. LASD responds to emergency calls and provides other security services in Santa Monica, although transit security officers are sometimes involved scanning tap cards for fare evaders and doing other tasks.

Although the Expo Line’s western terminus sits at Fourth Street and Colorado Boulevard, with stops at 17th Street and 26th Street here in Santa Monica, the Santa Monica Police Department (SMPD) has never been contracted to perform security on LA Metro; however, the door is open for that to change, according to a brief statement provided by the SMPD. 

According to Public Information Officer Rudy Flores, Captain Saul Rodriguez of the SMPD has “connected with” LA Metro personnel regarding the issue of transit security in Santa Monica, “and is scheduled to meet with them to discuss further this issue.”

According to Flores, there are no normal plans or arrangements in place.

On Thursday morning, April 28, Supervisor Janice Hahn, together with Third District Supervisor Sheila Kuehl and other members of the Metro Board of Directors are to meet to formally request Metro’s CEO begin to plan for LASD withdrawal from transit security.

Since July 1, 2017, LASD has provided security services to the system together with the LAPD and Long Beach Police Department, plus transit security officers (both Metro Security and private security). During the Thursday, April 21, meeting, the Los Angeles Metro Board of Directors Operations Committee voted to direct Metro’s Chief Executive Officer to study how to fill the gaps of about 300 LASD deputies who may be pulled from the system as soon as July 1.

“I just want to be prepared, colleagues, because I think we should take … his, his — what he’s saying — seriously,” Hahn said at the meeting. “And I know, at the end of the day, all of you feel the same way: that we’re responsible for the safety of our riders.”

On April 13, Villanueva held a press conference announcing he would “redeploy” his deputies to other service areas if LA Metro (which he referred to as “MTA”) did not agree to offer the LASD its full security contract. 

“Effective July 1, we will redeploy, absent a position from the Board that we’re going to accept our entire contact or, like I said, I have three jobs for every person assigned to the MTA right now,” Villanueva said at the time. “Now, I’m in the position of actually having to do triage with limited resources; I can’t have 300 of my deputies basically sitting on their hands while I have other issues where I need full time cops to do peace officers’ — deputies’ — work.”

While a later LASD press release stated the Metro Board had “defunded the LASD,” Hahn reported security contracts on LA Metro had recently been extended and expanded.

“This Board just voted a few months ago to increase funding for policing on Metro and to extend those contracts, with which the sheriff has one of them,” Hahn said during the April 21 Los Angeles Metro Board of Directors Operations Committee meeting.

“We can’t take the Sheriff’s threat lightly,” Hahn, who serves on the Metro Board of Directors, said in a statement provided by her office. “If he chooses to pull his deputies from our trains and buses, we need to be prepared and have other law enforcement agencies ready to step in. At the end of the day, we are responsible for the safety of our riders.”

The LA Metro Board of Directors meeting is set to begin at 10 a.m. on Thursday, April 28. More information is available at boardagendas.metro.net.

emily@smdp.com