I’m Karen O’Keefe, an attorney and a member of the D.C. Bill of Rights Coalition.
I’m here to ask you to heed the Riders Advisory Council’s resolution to immediately halt the bag searches. Please consider better ways to use police resources to improve public safety while respecting civil liberties.
In 2008, the council asked the WMATA board of directors to hold public hearings on the bag search program, which had not been implemented. Unfortunately, the board ignored the recommendation. Now, two years later, a search policy has suddenly been implemented with no public discussion of alternatives, no hearings or vote by the Metro board, and without any specific credible threat.
Meanwhile, there are assaults and injuries on Metro. We all want to be safe, but the searches are not the best use of limited resources and they are offensive to the freedoms our country professes to value. Anyone with nefarious intent could simply go to one of the 80+ stations where there are no searches going on or come back later. Meanwhile, people who are just trying to get to work will be treated like criminals. Even a short delay can result in a missed train, and then a missed bus that may only come every 40 minutes.
I disagree with the Second Circuit decision in MacWade, and hope that a court here would rule differently. But today, this issue isn’t in a court’s hands — it’s in your hands.
As the Eleventh Circuit said when it found that peaceful protesters should not be subject to metal detectors, “Sept. 11, 2001, already a day of immeasurable tragedy, cannot be the day liberty perished in this country.” Please, stand up for our liberties. Address safety issues effectively and without treating us like criminals.