Although the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department (LASD) has had a long history of providing contract policing to communities within the County, specialized transit law enforcement wasn’t always our responsibility. The Southern California Rapid Transit District (RTD) was the entity formed in 1964 to bring together all of the smaller, local bus companies operating at the time. RTD was known as a young and ambitious group of transit operators with burgeoning crime problems. Keeping riders safe was an ever-growing concern of the agency. So much that in 1978 the RTD Police Department (RTDPD) was formed. RTDPD employed over 100 officers and support staff. They faced challenges right from the start; however, the safety of transit patrons was always their top priority.
The Los Angeles County Transportation Commission built the first modern light rail system in Los Angeles County. The Blue Line, as it would be known, began operation in 1990 and connected downtown Los Angeles to Long Beach. These 20 miles of light rail was first patrolled by the Sheriff’s Department, as the Transit Commission wanted a more dedicated police force. Sheriff Sherman Block ordered the creation of the Transit Services Bureau (TSB) that same year.
The Los Angeles County Transportation Commission and RTD merged in 1993 and formed Metropolitan Transportation Authority, better known as Metro. During the merger, RTDPD became known as the Metropolitan Transit Authority Police Department (MTAPD) and TSB was temporarily disbanded.
This saw the MTAPD grow into a transit police department with over 300 personnel. In 1997, the Metro Board of Directors opted to disband their Police Department, instead opting to contract with LASD and LAPD. In an agreement with the Los Angeles Police and Sheriff’s Departments, 60 percent of the transit officers would assimilated by the LAPD and the other 40 percent to the LASD, resulting in the reestablishment of TSB that same year.
Things stayed that way, with LAPD policing Metro buses and trains within the city of Los Angeles and LASD policing the rest of the County.
Metro and LASD Grow
As Metro grew by adding the Green Line rail service and numerous bus lines, our policing responsibilities also grew. In 2002, the Metro Board discussed the possibility of contracting with one law enforcement agency and in 2003 the Metro Board awarded the entire policing contact to LASD. As a result, the Transit Services Bureau expanded again.
From Bureau to Division
After the Metro Board of Directors approved an audit of the entire LASD policing structure, it was determined that to be an even more effective, additional staffing and management was necessary, ultimately recommending TSB expand into a complete division. As a result, in 2014, Transit Services Bureau became the Transit Policing Division (TPD) and expanded to more than 600 personnel covering all aspects of Metro and Metrolink.
The division would consist of three bureaus policing Metro and one bureau providing policing services to the Southern California Regional Rail Authority or Metrolink.
Although the division would only be in existence for three years, becoming the only division in LASD history to demobilize, many innovations and policing strategies were learned and developed during that time. The Threat Interdiction Unit (TIU), Bus Riding Team (BRT), Explosives Detection K9 Team (K9), and Transit Mental Evaluation Team (TMET), were only a few of the units brought to life by TPD. These units were, and still are, on the cutting edge of transit policing strategies and many of these strategies remain to do this day.
There and Back Again
In 2017 the Metro Board of Directors rebid the policing contract and ultimately elected to return to a multiagency model, bringing LAPD back and adding the Long Beach Police Department (LBPD). This created a multiagency approach, overseen by Metro Systems Security and Law Enforcement (SSLE), resulting in the demobilizing of TPD and resuming to a single command, Transit Services Bureau. Although TSB was “reborn” in 2017, with the change in policing services, Transit Services Bureau still provides services that were started over three decades ago. Although we have expanded and contracted over the years, TSB has been part of several high-profile crimes and events. TSB is known locally, nationally, and internationally as a leader in transit policing.
TSB Today and Every Day!
TSB, in its current configuration, consists of just over 300 personnel. The Bureau, Commanded by Captain Shawn R. Kehoe, consists of Canine units, special assignment teams, transit mental health teams, and patrol deputies specializing in the unique – and often complex – transit policing.
Recently, a new substation in Irwindale was added to better support the Metro L-Line (formerly Gold Line). The L-Line will soon be extending to the City of Montclair, and plans are in the works to continue this expansion. Additionally Metro will be adding a new rail line, the Crenshaw Line. This project is expected to be completed in 2022, resulting in eight additional stations. Beyond this, Metro buses have expanded to include fully electric buses and smaller Metro Micro (ride share like) buses – each providing their own unique policing requirements.
The specialized nature of TSB continues to make it a unique and rewarding place to work. TSB Deputies are ready to provide quality service to the people of Los Angeles County who “Go Metro” to work, school, or visit family and/or friends. TSB really is part of the Metro family, providing safety and security for Metro staff along with riders who often rely on Metro to survive. It truly is an honor to be part of this tradition and we look forward to what the future holds.