Crowd listens to public comments about Metro’s
random bag search policy during WMATA Riders
Advisory Council committee meeting, 1/3/2011.
A packed meeting room witnessed a Monday evening Metro Riders Advisory Council (RAC) committee meeting, where the public had a chance to learn about — and weigh in on — the WMATA (Washington Metro Area Transit Authority) Police Department’s new random bag search policy.
The committee, led by RAC Vice Chair David Alpert, provided time for numerous one- and two-minute comments on the issue by the public, including statements by Nicole Davies, Christopher Der, Pat Elder, Sommer Gentry (a mini-play!), Bob Griss, Kurt Mueller, Thomas Nephew, Karen O’Keefe, Sue Udry, and Martine Zee.* Speakers emphasized the cost to civil society caused by suspicionless searches, predicted that the Metro system would lose riders, and warned that patently ineffective “security theater” measures bred distrust of the police rather than a feeling of security, to name but a few of the themes explored.
A list of over 600 petitioners against the policy was delivered to the committee as well; if you haven’t already added your name, please do so at http://tinyurl.com/wmata-petition.
Following the public comment period, Metro PD had a chance to describe — and try to defend — the process, but a failed audio connection to their YouTube video made an all but impossible task harder. A police department Powerpoint presentation and answers to audience and committee member questions failed to convince most of those present that the random bag search policy was a good one. Among the revelations of the meeting were that…
- the Metro PD officers agreed that someone who refused a bag screening at an entrance to a Metro station would not be prevented from boarding a bus with the same bag
- the Metro PD officers implied at one point that those refusing bag screenings in Metro “free areas” would be scrutinized in other, unnamed ways.
- Police chief Michael Taborn and General Manager Sarles approved the new policy on their own authority without seeking WMATA Board approval — after their predecessors were turned down on prior occasions.
The RAC committee discussed but did not vote on a resolution that the RAC as a whole would recommend WMATA rescind the plan as “ineffective and inefficient,” when the whole council meets tomorrow, Wednesday, January 5 at 6:30pm.
We hope an even bigger crowd will be on hand then to urge the RAC to oppose random bag searches as unconstitutional, ineffective, and misguided.
* These statements are posted separately at this blog; others will be added to the list and posted as they’re submitted to firstname.lastname@example.org.