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Plan to Merge MTA Police, LAPD Met by Skepticism

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Top Los Angeles city officials have written a pessimistic report about the prospects of having the LAPD take over law enforcement on the city’s public buses and trains, saying a merger with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority police force is unacceptable as proposed and “will require substantial revision to be a viable proposition.”

In a memo to the City Council’s Public Safety, Personnel and Budget committees, Chief Legislative Analyst Ronald Deaton and City Administrative Officer Keith Comrie outlined nine points of contention with the MTA’s proposal. The City Council voted in December to support the concept of a merger between the two police forces, but to cut off all direct negotiations between the two entities until senior city staff could review the situation.

“It’s making even less and less good sense to me,” said Councilwoman Laura Chick, who heads the public safety panel and has been the most outspoken critic of the merger. “Here is [the MTA], an agency that is under siege from every quarter, and we want to contract with this agency now in a complicated arrangement?”

According to Deaton and Comrie, the problems with the proposal include everything from how much officers would be paid to who would pay for any lawsuits stemming from police action on the transit system. Among the disputed points:

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* The MTA wants to let officers choose whether to join the LAPD or the Sheriff’s Department, and let them retain their rank after transfer; those rejected by the LAPD during background checks would get non-sworn jobs at their current rate of pay. The city wants to reject anyone who does not pass its normal background investigation for transferring officers, and determine ranks itself.

* Although the MTA proposal calls for officers to retain the same pay and benefits, including MTA seniority, the city would prefer to establish all salary and benefits on an individual basis in light of its current labor agreements.

* The two agencies disagree about which would retain final authority over levels of service and staffing.

* The MTA proposal would have the chief of the new LAPD transit unit report to MTA officials, while the city demands that Los Angeles’ police chief have authority over the transit unit.

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* The proposed merger would require only six months’ notice before termination; the city wants one year’s notice.

* The city does not want to handle security guard services for the MTA, only official police duties.

“This [memo] keeps the concept on the table as a good idea, but says go back to the drawing board on how it might be done,” Chick said. “This is keeping the door open. We’re not going away. We’re saying we still think there’s some merit to the idea, but there are issues that need to be dealt with in a different way.”


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